Dave Crossland

Press

Crossland's Crossroad Produces a 'Pearl'

Crossland039s Crossroad Produces a 039Pearl039

Called "Pearl," the album is easily the finest of Crossland's career. A sinuous, sophisticated work, it instantly seduces on a pure sound level...Crossland's voice is graceful and liquid, and his phrasing is impeccable. Unlike almost any other contemporary folk talent from New England, Crossland is a singer with true pop gifts.

Dave Crossland has known life's hardships. During the 1990s - his time as a budding singer-songwriter in Boston - Crossland lived with his mother in Marshfield, while she slowly, over an eight year period, succumbed to cancer. Yet one of the lowest points in Crossland's life could've been a seemingly unremarkable night he sat alone in his apartment, exhausted from a day at his full-time computer job.

"I was living like a pauper, digging myself out of credit card debt," says the musician, who plays the Lizard Lounge on March 23. "I had dropped music completely, and I didn't know if I would ever get back into it. I even questioned whether I was a musician anymore. Maybe I had never been one? It was a dark time, filled with self-doubt.

"Then, I decided to pick up my guitar, and it hurt my fingers to play!" he adds. "It was a sensation I hadn't had since I was 13. Lucinda Williams' song 'Drunken Angel' became meaningful to me."

Suddenly, in the midst of this interview at an Inman Square caf, Crossland begins to softly sing that song's lyrics: "Why'd you let go of your guitar? Why'd you ever let it go that far?"

A good question. How had it gotten that far? For Crossland was considered one of the bright young lights of the thriving Cambridge-Boston folk scene of the early 1990s. Catie Curtis, Ellis Paul and Crossland made their first marks on the local scene singing at "WGBH Night at the Nameless Coffeehouse" in 1988. Both his '90s albums were well-reviewed.

"I was just a wide-eyed kid from Michigan who found himself in Boston. I'm eternally nave in a lot of ways," the still-boyish Crossland says. "And I am not a very good capitalist."

That last statement can be handily proven by Crossland's Nashville tenure. When he moved to Music City U.S.A. in 1999, Crossland did not schmooze, hobnob, co-write or sell himself. When his friend and mentor, folk legend John Stewart, arranged a lunch for Crossland with the president of Sony-Tree publishing, it might've been a huge break, but, bizarrely, Crossland had no new songs or tapes to show him.

Then, right before Appleseed Records released an EP of his songs, Crossland dropped his manager. (Admittedly, the relationship had turned sour.) And he ultimately found himself, in debt, working temp jobs like stuffing envelopes for Faith Hill in the Warner Brothers mailroom.

Yet for a man as likable and talented as Crossland, there turned out to be a second chapter in his musical life.

Back in the Boston-area, Crossland took up guitar again, developed calluses on his fretting hand once more, and began writing songs, just for his own joy. He shared some of these new songs with his longtime friend, musician Jim Infantino.

"He immediately offered to produce an album," says Crossland, a sense of wonder in his voice.

A new album meant an investment of cash Crossland simply did not have. But eventually, he began moving forward with the project. And then a remarkable thing happened: Every friend in the music field who heard the tapes fell in love with the songs and offered to help the project along. Soon, Crossland had a manager, a booking agent, a publicist and a radio-promotions person. Infantino designed a sublime, elegant CD package. And Liz Linder shot some miraculously beautiful photographs at dawn on Nantasket Beach: a contented Crossland, barefoot, dressed in a black suit, carrying, alternately, a briefcase and a guitar, scampers in the surf.

"The album happened in a completely natural way, at first just playing the songs for a friend. It was effortless, putting it together. We kept the recording simple, honest, not trying for perfection, never doing more than four takes. And I think it's the most beautiful thing I've ever created," says Crossland, who plays a CD release gig at Cambridge's Lizard Lounge on March 23.

Called "Pearl," the album is easily the finest of Crossland's career. A sinuous, sophisticated work, it instantly seduces on a pure sound level: Gentle yet inventive, it seems touched by such diverse tunesmiths as Donovan and Bruce Springsteen. Crossland's voice is graceful and liquid, and his phrasing is impeccable. Unlike almost any other contemporary folk talent from New England, Crossland is a singer with true pop gifts. Like Josh Ritter, he evokes the tone of love without forcing the issue. And, like someone who has seen much of life's up and downs, he often sounds wise, and, despite his self-described "eternal naivet," even hip to the ways of the world.

"This album is a homecoming. It got me back to the fun of playing, to the beauty of song, to just having some meaning in my life," Crossland says with a boyish smile. "For a long time I was walking around not knowing if I was in my own skin. This album has allowed me to find myself again."

Dave Crossland and his band play the Lizard Lounge, 1667 Mass. Ave., Thursday, March 23, 9:30 p.m. Call 617-547-0759.