“Driving Through the Aftermath of a Storm on a Clear Day” is the first solo album for David Allred on the ever consistent Dauw label. It highlights Allred’s precise ability to follow the emotional current of each notes as he creates a collection of songs that feel like a series of evocative sound narratives.
The album opens with the dreamy “Wave” which finds Allred toiling away on some quiet piano melodies where even the sound of the keys being pushed becomes part of the texture of the composition. The piece then becomes more expensive as instruments join in and melodies are layered upon each other. This sets up what will be a pattern for the album: compositions open with a single instrument and a primary melody, then – as more instruments are layered – the original melody becomes refracted and takes on a new context once viewed as part of the whole. In the case of ‘Wave’, there is gentle tone when taken alone – but as those additional layers come into play, it becomes the basis for something so much grander. And, by the end, it is reduced to the quiet origins of a single piano melody as though it were the root of a tree.
‘New Gravity’ opens with a lilting melody on some picked strings and then piano and voice enter. But, as that piano enters it seems to punctuate the space between each note of the original melody, and what comes of that is that the piece takes on a more sinister and mysterious tone. And this is where Allred finds his power in the album’s formula – his keen sense of ability to trace the emotional touchstone of each chord or even note allows him to turn the emotional arc of a piece on a dime.
‘Sunbeam’ opens somewhat somber with its cello but again new layers add new feelings. And the irony becomes that as the song dissolves it seems to find its peace.
‘Lizard in the Spring’ again opens in a more somber place, but as those layers of melody are added, it become something more expansive – but ever so briefly, before again dissolving into a hazy fadeout.
‘Driving’ feels like the centerpiece of the album from a compositional perspective in that it finds Allred at his most whimsical in terms of composition– melodies take shape and then dissolve only to be replaced by something new.
In its home stretch the album offers two of its strongest compositions. ‘Sweet potato’ starts melodic but dissolves into some terse phrases held on the edge of a knife. The outcome though is that a new even warmer melody finally arrives to take its place. But in that interlude is where Allred often hides the magic of the narrative drive or his compositions. ‘Dandelion’ too is a right stunner. It opens with piano and is then joined by strings and wordless vocal melodies that help the whole piece shine.
“Driving Through the Aftermath of a Storm on a Clear Day” remains consistent from beginning to end. Given Allred’s mastery of the emotional narrative that move his compositions, there is something telling in that title: it’s not the emotional turbulence of the storm that drives the heart of the songs, it’s the relief of the clear day that comes afterward that serves to punctuate the overall sense of the music. Each song feels like an arc, but overall what the experience provides is just that: a cathartic sense of relief.