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Dave Potts: Days Like These
Sound/Style: Low-key but emotionally evocative modern folk
By Steve Morley
(UMCom)—You’re channel surfing through a purgatory of sitcom reruns and infomercials in search of a momentary oasis, when you stumble upon the welcoming black-and-white images of Andy, Barney and Aunt Bee. The younger, still-uninitiated members of the clan initially protest this relic of yesteryear ("Borrr-ring!"), lacking as it is in color, action and nanosecond-by-nanosecond edits. You might even find yourself momentarily struggling to recalibrate your own speeding synapses to the show’s sauntering pace before settling in to watch. Such is the adjustment required to meet Dave Potts in his songs of small-town southern America.
Just as everyday events in Mayberry take on a deeper, even spiritual significance over time (a Bible study series based on vintage The Andy Griffith Show episodes is currently on the market), so does Potts connect the dots between ordinary days and lives engineered by an extraordinary God. Potts’ austere acoustic arrangements and earnest storytelling may seem tortoise-like upon the first listen to his opus Days Like These, but once you move over to the slow lane, you may find yourself wanting to pull off the road entirely to absorb his often-poignant anecdotes.
As a songwriter, Potts camps largely around his wonder at the mystery of how time and individual lives unfold. In "Amanda Bramlett," the supposed girl of his dreams turns out to be an angelic diversion (that is, in the human sense) to get him to his then-unrealized destination. In "I Wish You Well," a beloved friend’s departure again alters his heart’s trajectory. Throughout, he waxes sentimental about his Alabama home, and while this threatens to make his work seem overly precious and limited in scope, the poetry he distills from his experiences and observations lifts the best of his songs well above his regional focus.
"Ferris Wheel" taps into the near-universal collective memory of the county fair and offers a philosophical perspective gained from his crow’s nest view atop the rotating ride, while the consecutive tracks "Hamilton Road" and "His Front Row Seat" beguilingly intertwine time and space, contrasting the lives of two men in different phases of growth. In the latter, a much-loved neighborhood patriarch is followed across decades, his quiet significance underlined by the subsequent generations that carry on his name.
Imaginatively, Potts includes Jesus as a kind of recurring character, as well in the form of time-traveling songs that ponder Christ’s humanity and little-known childhood. In "Ordinary Life," the writer expresses his gratitude that the Savior sacrificed the opportunity for the more typical joys of raising a family and watching while they grow—something that clearly means much to Potts. Ultimately, though, the songwriter—both with his words and between his lines—points to God as the one constant in the random happenings of day-to-day life.
Potts, an up-and-comer in the independent folk scene who has won awards at the prestigious Kerrville, Texas, Folk Festival, has released another CD since Days Like These and has other titles available as well at www.davepotts.com. Fans of soft-spoken, reflective music in the vein of Jim Croce, John Denver and David Wilcox may want to investigate the work of this promising newcomer and active music minister, at least for those times when The Andy Griffith Show is nowhere to be found.
Steve Morley is a freelance music journalist living in College Grove, Tenn.
This review was developed by UMC.org, the official online ministry of the United Methodist Church.