In the world of singer-songwriters, those earnest individuals with acoustic guitars are usually either wretchedly clichéd or wonderfully adept at wordplay, and their instrumental prowess is typically at odds with the quality of their lyrics. Thankfully, Dave Crossland is part of the better half of those extremes on this EP.
Crossland’s voice takes the emotional investment of Bruce Springsteen and the populist tenor of Pete Seeger and finds a melodic middle ground. Lyrically, those two references would also be a good fit, with “Blood in the Fields”, tackling social and economic inequality issues, and a fine, high tenor take on, “Shenandoah”, making a strong connection to the folk scene.
The stunner on this disc is found at the end with “Matthew Shepard”. Crossland’s empathetic retelling of the tragic tale of the now familiar hate crime victim weaves in the Christian crucifixion story and a basic reworking of the same theme that drove “Blowin’ in the Wind” a quarter century ago—when will enough be enough, and as Crossland sings, “Where is the love that you promised me?” Like Dylan’s classic, there are no answers provided, easy or otherwise, and that open-ended structure makes for a stronger statement. In life just as in the song, there are questions that go unanswered.
These five songs should alleviate any question of the talent possessed by Dave Crossland. Divided between live acoustic recordings (including an unlisted solo acoustic version of “Matthew Shepard”) and some full-band studio tracks featuring Nashville session vets like Richard Bennet and Victor Krauss, this EP released last year is supposed to be a precursor to a full-length disc to come out later in 2001.