For our March 2015 profile of Maine troubadour David Mallett, we talked to the songwriter’s sons: Will Mallett, 30, and Luke Mallett, 31, who make up two-sixths of the Portland-based, hard-touring alt-country rockers The Mallett Brothers Band. We asked them: If you made a mix tape of your dad’s music to give to a friend, what would you put on it? The Mallett brothers put their heads together, and Luke provided some color commentary.
The songs below are embeds of content already freely available elsewhere online, from YouTube, Grooveshark, and elsewhere. Visit David Mallett’s website to shop his entire catalogue, including his new release The Horse I Rode In On. To purchase any of the tracks below from iTunes or Amazon, simply click the song title. Photo credit: Toan Trinh
1. Fire / David Mallett (1978)
This song, off of my dad’s first record, tells the story of the family farm that burned to the ground when he was a kid. The farm was built by my great-grandfather, and today our Uncle Neil (of the original Mallett Brothers) has built a house where the old farm once stood. Our family history in northern Maine goes deep, and this song always struck a very personal chord with me.
2. Highways / Hard Light (1981)
I love this album. The band that he had for this recording was phenomenal. This song is a classic traveling song, which speaks to me now that I’ve grown up and followed the same rambling lifestyle that he always led.
3. Snowbound / Open Doors & Windows (1983)
This album came out the year that I was born. I’ve always considered “Snowbound” to be one of my very favorite songs, written by anyone. My father would say it’s because I like the minor chords. This song has some incredible imagery.
4. Off The Ground / In The Falling Dark (1995)
This song has been cut by a few different people, including Alison Krauss, but my dad’s version is still my favorite.
5. The Last Time I Saw Annie / Pennsylvania Sunrise (1979)
The percussion, right from the beginning of this song, always set it apart for me. It’s one of those story songs that made me want to tell stories in my lyrics as well.
6. Old Soldiers / This Town (1993)
“Old Soldiers” was co-written with Hal Ketchum in our Nashville basement. This one has some country grit to it, especially in the hook.
7. That Was The One / In The Falling Dark (1995)
This is one of the songs that I remember as being a “rocker” when I was a kid. Fast cars, fast horses, lost love, etc. It’s got some solid themes and a real drive to it.
8. Old Blue Ox / Artist In Me (2003)
This song also speaks to the family history, pulling a lot of geography and family names from the hometown. At the time this record came out, we had been back in Maine for nearly a decade. I think there was no better muse for my old man than the woods of Sebec.
9. I Wish I Were A Horse / David Mallett (1978)
I’ve always liked this YouTube video of my dad performing this song back in the early ’80s. He played a 12-string earlier on in his career, and he always insisted that it changed and molded the way that he played guitar in general. He moved to a 6-string Martin many many years ago, but it’s always amazed me how he manages to make it sound so huge.
10. Come Out Of The Blue / In The Falling Dark (1995)
I remember my dad playing this song live, years ago. It was a regular on his setlist when I was a kid, and although I haven’t heard him play it in recent years, I will always love the way he styled his vocals on this one. He hits some lines that still give me shivers.
11. Arthur / David Mallett (1978)
This song stands apart from everything else in his catalogue. It really grabs the feeling of the storyline, of being King Arthur and the fantasy surrounding those stories. I remember my friends in high school would put this song on during parties. It’s a fun one.
12. Change of the Seasons / This Town (1993)
“Change of the Seasons” was written about a good friend of my dad’s, a musician and mentor, who was killed in a plane crash. It’s not the only song written with Judd in mind, but it’s a pretty powerful look at loss and hope and aging, and the images of the “Wild River Rider” were always easy for me to see.
Editor’s Bonus Track
13. Hard Light / Hard Light (1981)
The Mallett Brothers Band included a cover of this one on their first, self-titled album. Mallett says he’d mostly stopped playing the song in concert, but he brought it back after his boys resurrected it. In the video below, all three Malletts share the stage at a 2010 performance at the Chocolate Church in Bath — the same venue where David Mallett’s live album Hard Light was recorded three decades before.