Dave Crossland


A Tour De Force

A Tour De Force

a tour de force...

Dave Crossland has come a long way since his first album, Here's to the Ride , released in 1992. His latest, Molly's Street , is a tour de force as he rocks out with more than a dozen other musicians  a complete change for this evocative songwriter and acoustic guitarist. In fact, there are only few reminders of the tender, folk-oriented acoustics of his earlier work. Crossland is in vibrant voice, though now it is energy-packed and expressive in a way that will make audiences take notice. "Maximum volume, dude," he said when encouraging a listen to his new album. The CD is an about face for Crossland, who's written sweetly affecting ballads, including a touching love song about "Minot's Light" off the coast of Scituate, Massachusetts. The 12-song set on his own Roadmonkey Music includes all originals  except for a cover of Lennon/McCartney's "Eleanor Rigby"  in which Crossland often rocks like Bruce Springsteen or is as plaintive as Van Morrison.

A resident of Somerville, Massachusetts, Crossland spent his childhood in Ohio. He admitted this album is a vast departure from his earlier release, but the change really has been a gradual one, he said. "It's been going in this direction for a number of years," Crossland said in an interview at last summer's Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in New York. "It's a lot different from my last record, but it probably wouldn't have been if there were records in between."

Often musicians release albums each year or every other year, resulting in recorded snapshots of how they are changing. But Crossland left music for a while. Though he had the money for another album and actually began it in 1994 and then again in 1995, family matters took precedence. Prior to his mother's death from cancer in 1996, Crossland stopped playing altogether to take care of her and his three younger brothers. It wasn't until fall of 1997 that he started playing full time again and recorded tracks for the new album.

He attributes the album's bigger sound to Dave "Tate" Stephenson, a childhood friend who runs a studio in Akron, Ohio. Stephenson, he said, added all the other tracks and presented it to Crossland. "My adrenaline just went wild," he said about hearing the revised tracks. "My first reaction was, 'Yeah!' My second reaction was, 'This isn't folk. What am I going to do?' "

Crossland had a decision to make  release an album that would be perceived as selling out to a more commercial sound, or scale it back to its more folk-oriented, acoustic underpinnings. He decided to "follow the music" and his instincts. "If I were deliberately going to scale it down, to 'aim' this at people who knew me already, I would be selling out," he explained. "Altering the production for a market. Isn't that what selling out is?"

In shows, the enthusiastic response he's received from audiences has convinced him he made the right call. And, before the album was even released in August, he received orders for the album from as far away as Germany.

In songs such as "Molly's Street," Crossland contrasts a tough neighborhood (where "They smashed up my bike and they kicked my little brother/ And they pinned me down on the ground, talking trash about my mother") with an imagined idealistic home (where "the boys and the girls got the greatest dads in the world"). " 'Molly's Street' has a lot to do with my life as a kid," Crossland said. "For a few years we were living in Washington, D.C., and I was going to public school. I was the only white boy in the fifth grade. It was tough, but I learned an awful lot. Man, did I learn a lot. I sometimes think it's a miracle I didn't come out of it with an attitude, but I had great parents."

Crossland's style varies when he's touring. "Sometimes I'm playing with a full band, sometimes I'm doing solo stuff, and sometimes it's in between," he said. "The nice thing is that the songs work in just about any context. I can play the Hard Rock Caf, the quiet folk coffeehouse, the dive bar in Akron, Ohio, and it all works. And I get a kick out of that. I've been playing with a number of different musicians, but the core members are Joe Feloni on guitar, Mike Cahill on drums, Hugh Albert on bass, and Tim Longfellow on keyboards. Although sometimes when I'm in the midwest, I've got an entirely different band. They're all guys from my hometown in Ohio."

Longfellow joins in on this set. Also playing are Johnny Cunningham (fiddle), Tim O'Brien (bouzouki), and Andy McIntosh (electric guitar).

Another of the more meaningful songs to Crossland is "When the Buffalo Come Back," set over his acoustic guitar and Cunningham's fiddling. It paints a stark portrait of how progress destroys: "You come hunting for your pleasure/ You come murdering in greed/ And you slaughter us by the thousands/ with your foreign-born disease." It "is just how I feel about what we Euro-Americans have done to this continent in such a short time," he said. "We're in real danger of destroying the life-giving nature of the world before we realize it. If we don't bring the buffalo back ourselves, it will come back in it's own way, and it'll be angry."

"Mother's Cross" harkens back to the sweeter style present on his earlier work, tender vocals set over piano and fiddle as he describes a devout woman with a strength of spirit and soul. "'Mother's Cross' is for my mom," he said. "I don't know what else to say about that. She was an incredible woman, very close to God, and I just hope to carry her legacy as best I can."