By Sam Buzzell July 2017
The annual Dutton Concert, July 8 @ 7:30pm at the Meeting House, is the fruit of Betty and George Dutton’s labors on behalf of the CSA; after years of enjoying the music performed in church, CSA concerts, operettas and dances, the Dutton family wanted to secure a place for the arts in our summer community. Through the concert series they work to continue the CSA’s celebration of music, having attracted talented guests from across the country summer after summer for more than a decade.
This year’s guest is American folk singer-songwriter David Mallett. From the highlands of Maine, Mallett pours the stories of his home into each carefully crafted song. Commenting on one of his latest records “Greenin’ Up” he explained in a previous interview that, “having grown up around country people and farmers, rural life has always been the wellspring for a lot of my best work.” His album is a culmination of a life in show business that began when Mallett was just 11 years old. He and his older brother formed the Mallett Brothers and, “we played everything from old songs like ‘Carry Me Back to Old Virginny’, which was the only song that my father ever sang, to stuff that was on the radio [at the time]; Johnny Cash to Peter, Paul and Mary to Sinatra.”
After several years of performing covers, David Mallett became a theater major. The music of singer-songwriters like Gordon Lightfoot and Bob Dylan became his inspiration to take up writing for himself. “Up until that point, I thought of myself as a singer,” he said in a previous interview. “In college, everybody that was singing also wrote. I realized that that was what I wanted to do. I felt short-changed that I had to speak someone else’s words. I felt that, if I became a singer-songwriter, I could sing my own words.”
He spent his twenties performing in bars, gradually increasing the number of original songs in his repertoire. By the time that Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary moved to Maine and opened a recording studio, Mallett was performing only originals. “That was back in the days when a recording studio was sort of like Oz,” he said. “It was a foreign land. I wanted to see his studio, so, I called him up and said, ‘can I come visit?’” A half a year later Stookey and Mallett began work on the first of three records they would produce together. Mallett’s new mentor was influential in bringing his hit “The Garden Song” to the attention of the likes of Pete Seeger and John Denver, the latter recording the song and taking it to the top 10 in the adult contemporary charts in the late 70s.
Mallett has spent the past four decades writing, recording and performing around the country. His choice venues are smaller and more personal – restaurants, bars, cafes as well as performance halls in the middle of the woods.
It was in one such venue that CSAer Ruth Reeve first saw him perform in his hometown of Sebec, Maine. They bonded right off the bat, and she has followed his career since then, attending concerts as often as she can. His classic folk style and young mind were perfect for any generation – and perfect for the CSA – so when the Dutton Concert came around again, Reeve’s first thought was Mallett. She wasted no time in convincing Jim Dutton to invite Mallett down for this Saturday's event.