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Dave Simonett

Red Tail – 2020 (Thirty Tigers)

Reviewed by Sam Gazdziak

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CDs by Dave Simonett

Though he has been releasing albums as the frontman of Trampled by Turtles and under the Dead Man Winter moniker, "Red Tail" is Dave Simonett's first true solo album. It's an appropriate album title, too. Though a mere eight songs long, "Red Tail" has moments that soar like a hawk in flight.

One of TbT's calling cards has been the band's lightning-fast bluegrass licks. There are some upbeat songs here, but there are also a number of tunes that meander at their own steady pace, through Simonett's occasionally reverb-heavy vocals and sparse instrumentation. The album opens with "Revoked" and "Pisces, Queen of Hearts," which certainly evoke a desolate, almost mournful mode. While Simonett's vocals are as different from Tony Dekker, Gary Louris or Mark Olson as can be, the songs have the same beautifully sad quality of the best Jayhawks or Great Lakes Swimmers songs.

At its most expansive, there is "In the Western Wind and the Sunrise," a sprawling six-minute song, at least half of which is a slow piano solo. At the other extreme are "Silhouette" and "There's a Lifeline Deep in the Night Sky." They're short, snappy, catchy and surprisingly mainstream - at least as mainstream as Americana gets.

With all the ways that Simonett has released his music, it's a testament to his abilities that none of his identities sound the same. "Red Tail" is somewhere between the acoustic, occasionally hyperkinetic Trampled by Turtles and the fully plugged-in sound of Dead Man Winter. There are echoes of both entities here, but the overall sound is something different from either one. The things that matter - Simonett's warm vocals, compelling songwriting and pleasing arrangements - demonstrate that he consistently delivers a pleasing batch of songs, regardless of the name.