Dave Derby - And The Norfolk Downs
Bruce Turnbull 02/05/2007
Having been around for a while in one musical incarnation or another, New York City songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Dave Derby returns with his second solo album in the shape of “And the Norfolk Downs”, featuring a multitude of guest appearances from his long time collaborators Joan Wasser, Kevin March and Chris Brokaw amongst others. Generally, this collection of chilled out post-rock ballads is fairly boring, with very little going on despite the amount of instrumentation utilized. Vocally, and musically, this can be a little tawdry; the delivery seems strained, overcrowded by lyrics stuffed with superficial sentiment. There are, at times, some redeeming features in the shape of unwinding romps “Overnight Low” and “Sunset Sublet”, which are relaxing, placating tracks that are frankly hard not to enjoy.
It seems “And the Norfolk Downs” had a lot of effort put into it - perhaps a superfluous amount - but the production still fails to heighten the appeal of the songs, leaving an unpleasant, sour taste. The flat snare sound - when used - is off-putting to the point of distraction, making the line between 'demo recordings' and 'professional cuts' a rather blurred one indeed. Maybe Derby was getting ahead of himself? I mean the songs are well crafted, but the performance of Derby and his plethora of guests are little better than average. Perhaps the country leanings of “Sugar and Violets” or the rockier, indie approach evident on “Beaten Down” would be territory worth backtracking? Take note Dave: you have to slip on your shoes before you can really tango.