Jon Pousette-Dart on the comeback trail
by Seth Rogovoy

(STOCKBRIDGE, Mass., March 17, 2002) – Give Jon Pousette-Dart credit for being a trouper. Nothing against the Lion’s Den, which has its well-worn charms, but it’s a long way from the major clubs, theaters, festivals and arenas Pousette-Dart played in the late-1970s as leader of the soft-rock group, Pousette-Dart Band.

In those days, the folk-pop singer-songwriter rubbed shoulders with the likes of James Taylor, Billy Joel, Little Feat, Bonnie Raitt and Yes. Now, after two decades out of the spotlight, spent variously writing songs in Nashville, acting, lending his considerable guitar efforts to others’ recordings and making commercials, Pousette-Dart is jumping with both feet back into the arena, so to speak.

Except this time the arena is a hotel bar where he had to compete with the conversations of patrons who were there to enjoy each other’s company and not necessarily to listen to the guy singing in the corner. Also, Pousette-Dart is a tall man, and the Lion’s Den has a low ceiling with pipes underneath it, and standing on a stage, his head was up among those pipes, in the dark, just a few inches from the ceiling.

So if the setting was less than ideal, Pousette-Dart was nothing if not consummately professional in his first hour-long set of the evening. As he sang in one song, “We can rise above this trouble,” and rise he did, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, playing old and new songs for a mostly attentive crowd.

Pousette-Dart’s songs variously drew from folk, blues and country styles, but in classic ‘70s fashion, they had a patina of pop sheen. The Pousette-Dart Band mined a territory similar to the Eagles, Orleans and James Taylor, and Pousette-Dart’s contribution to the field is his delicate tenor and his fleet, bluesy fingerpicking.

“Roll Um Easy” injected a bit of gospel into his acoustic folk, and “I’m the Man for You” emphasized his country leanings.

Some of his ballads are closely related to the kind of songs written by some of the younger, new-folk singer-songwriters of today. Pousette-Dart’s are a little sweeter, a little bluesier and a little jazzier. Then again, they also bear resemblance to some of the more bombastic, rock power ballads – Train’s “Drops of Jupiter” could be a Pousette-Dart song in an unplugged version.

Pousette-Dart had a gentle, amusing demeanor. Of his biggest hit, “Amnesia,” he said, “I keep getting royalty checks for it but I have no memory of every recording it.”

If there was one weakness in his set, it was that his melodies, or at least the way he sang them, tended to be grouped too closely around the tonic note. Melodies rarely strayed far from the tonic, and often a whole bar or two would be nothing but the same note. His harmonic strategy, too, was often limited to one or two chords. This gave too many of his songs a faint, vaporous quality.

[This review originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on March 19, 2002. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2002. All rights reserved.]

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