Blaskan (Sweden) 2021
I think it's a classic Americana artist sitting there on the dock in a reclining wooden chair. He's looking out over the water at dusk. The guitar is picked up and he sings there by himself, without an audiance. Yes it's a fantasy image I have because of the cover. A six track ep slowly conjured from David Massey's most beautiful inner and melodic notebooks. Music that wanders and wanders along the rippling lines of the water. Clinking sounds on towards the shore. The sun setting on the horizon. A country music riff. As pretty as it gets.
Country Jukebox (Germany) 2021
On his sixth CD release, Washington, D.C.-based singer and songwriter DAVID MASSEY displays a casual, unobtrusive, deeply relaxed manner with a sensitive, expressive voice - a combination that once again works perfectly.
Perhaps it is due to the currently difficult, grueling time that his songs with their life stories, the emotionally appealing lyrics, and the harmonious melody arcs fit so well into the here and now.
As in the past, the former lawyer's talent for evoking feelings and experiences in the hearts and ears of his listeners with just a few words is very much in the tradition of the great songwriting icons from Bob Dylan and Tom Petty to Mark Knopfler, and yet he always remains himself in an unmistakably likable way - Massey takes us on a journey into his very own reality, in which there is so much to discover.
Fatea (UK) 2021
David Massey is a Washington, DC based singer and guitarist who came to songwriting pretty late in life. While pursuing a law career he carried on writing songs and releasing a few CDs that got favourable reviews. He retired from the legal profession in 2017 and now devotes more time to songwriting and I reckon that's a good thing. This six track EP shows off his distinctive voice and sensitive guitar playing to good effect. Helped by a good players on a variety of instruments he shows that he knows how to craft a good song, yet it's not all quiet and laid back.
Title track 'Island Creek' puts his delicate rhythm guitar style up front with a little piano colour and fine fiddle to support a poetic lyric. 'Demon Wind' feels a little like Dire Straits with fine electric lead guitar and then before you know it we're into 'Long, Long Time' - fine country rock with a strong backbeat that, strangely, feels like bluegrass without the banjo! Tight harmonies feature here. The breathy vocals of 'Don't Know Where I'd be' give us a love song with tasteful fingerpicking, mandolin and pedal steel. 'Curtain Drawn' features rhythmic tom-toms driving a track with a fifties feel that calls to mind the Ventures. David does fun too with 'Fight Finished', a light hearted bit of fun with a semi spoken vocal and rockabilly sax and bar room piano. Lovely stuff. The production values here are really high.
Overall there's a strong feel of Dylan/Petty/Knopfler and the songs are none the worse for it. Good fun American music from a quality singer songwriter having a great time with his buddies. Apparently he doesn't venture far from the coffee houses of DC. That's a shame. If he took it further afield there are plenty out there who would like this a lot.
Rootstime (Belgium) February 2021
American singer-songwriter David Massey never disappointed us in the past with his four released albums. Now each and every one of the six tracks on his latest EP “Island Creek” is of the highest quality with excellent musicality and a great vocal performance by this artist from Washington D.C.
We have been following the fascinating course of the musical career of David Massey for several years. Up to now this has resulted in four full CDs with “Blissful State Of Blue” from 2004, “So Many Roads” from 2009, “Until The Day Is Done” from 2015 and “Late Winter Light” from 2018. At the beginning of 2019 I wrote a rave review about that fourth album. It contained nine self-written songs, but on his latest album “Island Creek” he limits his musical offer to six new songs, so we can describe this disc as an EP.
Two years ago we compared his work to that of singer-songwriters such as Steve Forbert and John Prine. We would now like to add Joe Ely and Elliott Murphy to that, mainly inspired by the song “Demon Wind” that is on “Island Creek.” The styles that David Massey uses on these songs are again a mix of folk, country, blues and Americana.
For the uptempo song “Long Long Time” . . . he gets vocal support from Jay Byrd, who also provides the electric guitar work on all tracks. Bassist on each song is his loyal friend Jim Robeson who is also credited as the album producer in "The Bar" recording studio. David Massey himself accompanies himself while singing on acoustic guitar, as it should be for a professional singer-songwriter. We mainly hear that acoustic guitar playing in the title song “Island Creek” and in the song “Don't Know Where I'd Be” in which Zan McLeod's mandolin, Casey O'Neal's pedal steel guitar and cello by Kristen Jones provide the musical coloring.
In the song “Curtain Drawn” that acoustic guitar playing is not by David Massey but by Jay Byrd. Here too we think we can hear fragments of the sound of Joe Ely. With an EP you quickly get to the end of the CD and here that honor is reserved for the sixth closing song “Fight Finished,” a nice swinging country rocker.
The Rocking Magpie (England) February 2021
There is something about the artwork on the cover that hinted at the contents therein; seeing David in his 'everyman' attire sitting looking out onto a sunset over the creek sort of let me know that I shouldn't expect any Black Sabbath covers or anything even remotely edgy .... which was just what I was hoping for last Sunday Morning.
What you see, is what you get starting with the charming title track, Island Creek; a laid back Country-Folk delight, in the manner of someone like James Taylor or John Denver; albeit with a more 'world weary' vocal styling.
The pace picks up on Demon Wind; when David treads the sort of path I expected from Roger McGuinn a few years ago; although the accompanying silvery electric guitar solos; from the aptly named Jay Byrd; owe a bit more to Steve Cropper; but the lyrics certainly have the sting in the tail I would expect from the American Folk legend.
Speaking of guitar playing; on Don't Know Where I'd Be Jay Byrd, pedal-steel player Casey O'Neil plus mandolin player Zan McLeod combine to take Massey's beautifully tattered love song into a space normally reserved for more lofty songs and songwriter.
The band kick in and kick up a Saturday night laid-back, ruckus on Curtain Drawn; the type of song that people of a certain vintage will hear; nod at the sentiment and then look across the room at the love of their life who will no doubt; be oblivious to the feelings being generated by osmosis.
There are only six songs here on this Mini-Album/EP; but Massey has certainly played to his strengths by not really including any filler; although perhaps I'd have preferred a couple of cover songs rather than album closer; Fight Finished, a celebratory Love Song to and about baseball team the Washington Nationals who won a trophy in 2019; but as a long suffering Newcastle United fan I'm happy to forgive him this rocking and rollicking indulgence.
Which all only leaves my Favourite Song, Long Long Time; a toe-tapping mid-tempo bittersweet song of love lost. It's never clear whose fault the break up was; (presumably his, as it's always the mans fault!) but this tale crackles with genuine unrequited passion and longing; which I love to bits.
Musick In Sich (Germany) February 2021
If I need to visualize most of the music on this David Massey EP, I would recommend taking a look at the album cover. The six original compositions are just as cozy, homely and harmonious. This is particularly true of the opening title, as it does without drums and the cello compliments the wonderful atmosphere.
So the second song is a little brisk, Jay Byrd brings in a big pinch of Mark Knopfler with his very present electric guitar, in terms of guitar playing. The next highlight for me, however, is "Don't Know Where I'd Be", again without drums, but enriched with the pedal steel and the mandolin and again the cello. The protagonist's warm, soft vocals form a perfectly harmonious alliance with the instrumentation. That sounds very romantic, a little wistful, a feeling of homesickness, wistfulness or wanderlust, something that ultimately affects the solar plexus.
The last song is a little different, it is a little more complex in terms of the arrangement and Bruce Swaim is introduced on saxophone in this fast rocking track.
For many years Massey had only made music alongside his main activity; since 2017 he has left his career and is exclusively on the road as a musician. Nevertheless, it has been enough to four albums since 2004, and now the Island Creek EP is available. Stylistically it fans out a little and serves several styles; I particularly like tracks 1 and 4 and here I also see the strength of the musician. So of course I personally wish for more in this direction.
UNTIL THE DAY IS DONE
Le Cri Du Coyote December 2015
Living and working in Washington, David Massey has two lives: a life as a lawyer in a law firm and a life as a musician and songwriter. There can be no question of his going on tours--his first profession doesn't allow that. However, this man in his 50s who wrote his first song at 35 records an album from time to time. "Until the day is done" is his third, and, franky, this amateur work is largely at a level that the best professionals produce: David Massey has a very pleasant voice, there's a high quality and also a lot of variety in the types of music as well as in the subjects of the texts, and the production of Jim Robeson, as well as the musicians who accompany David are absolutely perfect. From the very first piece, Ride with You, one is won over: very beautiful song, a very Knopflerian guitar. What follows carries us away in the footsteps of John Prine and Steve Forbert, with, as accompaniment and according to the individual songs, still more guitar, bass, percussion, performances on the mandolin (this Zan McLeod is excellent!), the dobro, the pedal steel guitar, the organ, the violin, the cello (this Fred Lieder is excellent!), the harmonica, and the accordion. The 13 songs of the album were written by David, and, truly, none of them is weak. An artist to discover.
Strutter December 2015
Until the day is done is the third album of the Washington based musician David Massey, who delivers a great piece of work here. During the week David is working as a lawyer, but secretly he is an amazing singer/songwriter. His new album contains a great mixture of uptempo and calmer tunes, all sounding very melodic and quite catchy actually. It is also a diverse album, although overall it is relaxing music in the American traditional pop/rock style, yet it features a westcoast flirt, some country and even a touch of bluegrass. The Westcoast Poco ish Ride with You, the uptempo Sweet Marie, the calmer Come on Home to Me, Until the Day Is Done, Song For Olen and Holden Caulfield are really wonderful songs, belonging to the highlights of the album. This feels like a hidden jewel, which is especially due to the great voice of David. Do not miss this album...
Late For the Sky November 2015
Hemifran, the distinguished Swedish distributor of American CDs, has bestowed on us a gem without appreciating it. A tri-fold CD booklet in a glossy cover and a booklet with the libretto of an artist who from the first note recalls the perpetual splendor of JJ Cale and Mark Knopfler. It is not a mistake, but a cause. At least, here you can feel the substance which, although contained in the eternal fold of the American sound, dissolves into the air with a fascinating and ingratiating magic. Without a doubt, there’s talent here. The ballads melt away along the sonorous journey into snapshots of a land, presumably from the photos inside, located in the forgotten areas of the Southwest, where the sun and the cactus forever dominate the bitter solitude of the visitor. For that reason, these songs are valuable. Three voices sing them. Besides Massey are Jay Byrd and Jim Robeson. Massey resembles Jim Rooney, tall and gray with eyes that have seen much. And to confirm it, his songs are saturated with all those desert liturgies that made country folk the true contemporary sound of the States. In the end, we’d like to ride with these songs in our dreams, and not fall back. Here then is a good reason to consider this CD. We cannot expect more. A great and beautiful CD.
Country Music People October 2015
Four Stars (Out of Five)
David Massey is a Washington based lawyer, which makes me wonder if some of his songs are taken from his casebook. There’s certainly a fair bit of crime in them. Only Just Turned Five is told from the perspective of the father of a murdered child. Little Boy Lost mentions the burning of a bus. “Did you see him?” Massey sings, as if cross-examining a witness. “Could you be him?” he accuses.
Broken Home could have been inspired by a divorce case; and the narrator of Come On Home To Me, persistently writing unanswered letters to his ex, was presumably up for stalking. Even the fun, up tempo number Making Memories is about a guy who gets arrested after a fracas with a flight attendant during his honeymoon: “I think the judge kind of understood; he only gave me seven days.” I guess Massey did a good job mitigating the plea on that one.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that an attorney’s office would provide an interesting window into domestic and societal drama. What might surprise, if you haven’t been following Massey’s career since his debut album, Blissful State of Blue in 2004, is that he’s a fine singer, with a soothing timbre to his voice and a thoughtful, sensitive delivery (that in his day job probably woos juries and puts defendants at their ease). He also writes engaging melodies and, with the help of producer Jim Robeson, has crafted an acoustic-based album of Americana that pulls off the rare feat of making often dark material poignant and reflective rather than saddening or melancholy.
The opening Ride With You kicks along in 70s country rock style, with a lean and spare arrangement dominated by the uplifting twang of Jay Byrd’s electric guitar. The gentle blend of Massey’s guitar and Zan McLeod’s mandolin, the only instruments on Only Just Turned Five, is really quite beautiful. The cello played by Fred Lieder is an inspired touch on Song For Olen and perfectly complements Massey’s requiem for a friend. On the fun mid-pacer Talk So Loud, an engaging and atmospheric babble of background voices and old fashioned telephone rings complement a lyric about people yakking on their cell phones, while Bill Starks pecks out some old timey piano over the top. It’s a neat number that I could imagine Toby Keith covering.
There’s a lot of death on the album, but the central theme is hope, as Massey makes explicit in the closing title track where he tells the Grim Reaper, “I don’t believe you’re the end . . . your chains will not bind us in the light that shines when this day is done.”
It all adds up to a superior slice of Americana that’s easy on the ear but emotionally engaging, too. My verdict, your honour? Recommended.
Lonesome Highway September 2015
With a couple of previous albums under his belt, Massey blends folk, bluegrass, country and rock together. He is in the troubadour tradition, telling stories over a musical backing that is easy to assimilate and to like. Massey, as with many similar artists, is traveling on a well worn path, but one that can still lead you to a place where you would like to find yourself. A huge asset to the songs is the tasteful guitar of Jay Byrd who is a focus throughout behind Massey’s vocal assuredness. The other assembled players also do their job well. They rock the songs, giving them a toe-tapping energy that makes them work within the confines they have set themselves. Some of the songs like Sweet Marie have a simple but memorable chorus that works and imbeds itself in the memory.
The use of mandolin and cello on the Song for Olen give it a broader, more reflective feel to a departed friend. Producer Jim Robeson brings in additional instruments as the song requires so with the bass, drums, guitar core you get Dobro, harmonica, keyboards, pedal steel, accordion and washboard which add different tones to the songs. Massey’s songs, mostly self-written, all have a sense of craft that shows a writer working to better tell the tales he wants to. One, Holden Caulfield is a tribute to the fictional hero which given the simple voice, guitar and violin rendition an effective sparseness. Equally stripped to its core is the closing Until The Day Is Done, a song recorded at home that could have been worked up, but is allowed to sit in its rawest form.
It finishes a likeable and easy listening collection of songs that won’t change your life, but may well make it a little more enjoyable. David Massey and his team have done a good job of getting these songs across. They could easily be enjoyed by a wider audience if they were placed before them and Massey with his third album will undoubtedly enhance his local reputation and please those who have encountered his previous work live or in recording.
Keys and Chords September 2015
Albums like “Blissful State Of Blue” and the more recent “So Many Roads” clearly indicate that this singing lawyer from Washington D.C. is a solid singer-songwriter. With “Until The Day Is Done,” Massey delivers another superior album to us. If John Prine, Steve Forbert, and Steve Earl interest you, then David will, too.
The thirteen songs consist of folk ballads, Americana, swing, and even a dash of rock. David writes lyrics that are as pristine as they are gripping about things that move him and packages them nicely as catchy tunes. The instruments used run the gamut from guitars, drums, piano, and pedal steel guitar, to mandolin, cello, accordion, viola, washboard, and harmonica. It hits the mark from the start with “Ride With You,” a nod to Dire Straits and Mark Knopfler. Growing up in a broken household is masterfully articulated in the Americana number “Broken Home,” while “Dust Into A Star” lays bare the feelings of a misunderstood artist. The emotional consequences of murder on a five-year-old boy are the theme for “Only Just Turned Five.” Massey shines when it comes to folk ballads as well. Life, and the fact that it can end abruptly, are the subjects of “Little Boy Lost,” which is given extra dimension by way of melancholic pedal steel sounds. David swings on “Making Memories” and in “Talk So Loud,” where he humorously criticizes addiction to smartphones. You can sit and sulk over unrequited love, or you can make a rocking song about it. And Massey does the latter with “Sweet Marie.” The title track, laid down on a portable, digital recorder in a living room, features just David accompanied by guitar. The sheer power of this song is the ultimate proof that Massey desperately deserves far greater fame.
Rootstime August 2015
David Massey lives in the same city as the American president, Washington D.C. In addition to his full-time profession as a lawyer, he is also a singer-songwriter who wraps his songs in country, folk, and rock styles. In 2004, he came onto the scene with his own compositions on his debut album “Blissful State Of Blue” and, five years later, released his follow-up album “So Many Roads.” Both CDs received positive reviews from Rootstime.
His most recent effort can count on the same high praise from these editors as well. In the same style as other folk singers and songwriters such as John Prine, Steve Forbert, or Joe Ely, David Massey gives us laid-back and peacefully-sung tunes. The songs are held up by great melodies and instrumentation which includes acoustic guitar, mandolin, dobro, pedal steel guitar, organ, and piano. In addition, viola, cello, harmonica, and accordion also come into play on one track or another on the album. Twelve of the thirteen songs on “Until The Day Is Done” were created by David Massey himself—both musically and lyrically. The only song on this album that he didn’t compose entirely on his own is “Sweet Marie,” which he wrote with his lead guitarist, Jay (Jason) Byrd. Jim Robeson, the bassist for all the tracks, signed on as CD producer for the album. The album’s title track, which closes the album, is the only completely acoustic song. But we would also like to draw your attention to the opener, “Ride With You,” with its Knopfler-style guitar work and driving Dire Straits-rhythm. The Americana sound, which calls John Prine to mind, shows up in, among others, “Broken Home,” “Dust Into A Star,” “Only Just Turned Five,” and “Come On Home To Me.” David Massey’s inner folk balladeer leisurely does his thing in “Song For Olen,” “Little Boy Lost,” “Holden Caulfield” and “Hard To Be You.” Things get rocking again in “Sweet Marie” and the contagious swing of the funny “Talk So Loud” or “Making Memories” will definitely get you out of your chair for a little dancing.
We couldn’t find a weak track on this new album from David Massey. He surprises us time and time again with his high-quality songs, their intricately arranged instrumentation, and frequently calming vocals. We don’t think it’s necessary to wait another 5 or 6 years to send a follow-up album to our editors for review, which will most likely be positive anyway.
SO MANY ROADS
Roots Highway May 2010
David Massey does something completely different in daily life, and maybe that’s one of the secrets, even if not the most important one, that allow him to dedicate himself to his passion—music, obviously—without the slightest commercial flavor or at least that is how he wishes to define himself. If we think about it, many honest and sincere offerings, in some cases artistically excellent, come from that cauldron of normality, of everyday life transformed into art by someone who bears music in his heart from birth. In the States, this happens often, but frankly it doesn’t over here, apart from a few very rare exceptions.
In Washington, Massey works as a lawyer. In the evening, he would have fun performing music, at first in various local bands, until he convinced himself of his own talent and started writing songs. His first recording, Blissful State of Blue, just a short year ago, found a warm reception on the part of critics and an encouraging following, primarily during concerts. His songs have nothing original and are situated without exception in a typically American tradition. In short, a classical singer-songwriter capable of writing good songs—at times decidedly excellent ones—which acquire weight thanks to outstanding and unknown musicians (sometimes very outstanding, as in the case of the guitarist Jason Byrd) and absolutely professional production values (Jim Robeson).
The thirteen tracks of So Many Roads offer the best in classical ballads, where the feeling for melody and the qualities of Massey’s storytelling shine in their own light, considering the influences – sometimes decidedly evident – on which they draw. The initial group of three serves as an appetizer: the vibrant rock blues of Dying Prayer, the country folk of Come What May and the roots of Note to Miss Grady openly explore genres and generations, while with Heathens one enters real life, a large-scale ballad with pedal steel and mandolin that drips with sensations of other times, a point of encounter between country and traditions that recalls the early (and better) Todd Snider. John Prine makes an appearance in What You See, the young Steve Forbert resounds in You Can Come Back Home, a suggestive and intense ballad, poetic and melodically refined, January Wind explores rock, with a Knopfler-esque guitar and an organ in evidence, Things That He’ll Never Be and Susie Came Home imbue the album with slow songs of substance, with strings and piano to blossom in a decidedly well constucted sound environment. With the title track, the disc reaches its climax, an electric ballad endowed with a killer refrain, while Julie, rapturous with a sixties organ, and Lay Your Burden Down, dedicated to Buddy and Julie Miller, bring to a close a solid disc that will surely please those who love the genre.
Roostime July 2009
David Massey is a singer-song writer who lives in Washington D.C. with many years of experience playing in bands, but performs since 2004 also as a solo artist. That is when the debut record, “Blissful State of Blue” was released. This album got such positive reviews from Rootstime, that you can still find the entire article on the homepage of David Massey.
“So Many Roads” is this musician’s second album with 13 songs written by himself. The record showcases all the good things written about him over the last five years with music styles like bluegrass, country, folk and rock. As a storyteller I compare him with artists like Steve Forbert, John Prine and Chip Taylor.
The first great song on this album is “Come What May” with the mandolin, accordion and dobro as the main instruments. Guitarist Jason Byrd is heard on every song on the album and also handles the backing vocals. Bass player and producer Jim Robeson also plays a major role on this record and performs live with David Massey as well. The song “Heathens” (World on Loan)" is a duet with Jason Byrd. This song has an amazing violin part played by Pat White and Casey O’Neal plays the pedal steel guitar.
The folksy song “You Can Come Back Home” is a beautiful song, and probably one of the best vocals of David Massey on this album with background vocals of the sisters Susan and Emily Hsu. This song, like “January Wind”, reminds me of Chip Taylor, but this could be just me. Also the almost entirely acoustically performed and emotional song “Susie Came Home” doesn’t disappoint, as does the musical ode to “Julie”. The last song “Lay your burden down” is dedicated to Buddy and Julie Miller; maybe he hopes that one day they will try to make a cover version of this song.
In his daily life, David Massey defends the rights of his clients as an attorney. When the evening falls he is a musician with a convincing plea filled with songs that tell a heart gripping story that forces people to think about its message.
We are convinced that there will be “So many roads” for a musical talent like David Massey.
Rootsville July 2009
“David Massey manages, with his storytelling, to blow away celebrities such as John Prine, James Mc Murtry, Todd Snider and others that have preceded him”…..always nice if, with a simple push on “Press”, you can send your review of Massey’s beautiful debut album ”Blissful State Of Blue”, dating back to October 2004, to the rest of the world. In the mean time almost five years have passed and the singer – songwriter from Washington DC has finally come to the conclusion that “rust corrodes” and that there are still “So Many Roads” to be discovered in the musical landscape. The Rootsville men and lady (welcome Yolanda) are eager to accompany David Massey on his discovery journey with pearls such as “”What You See” - with Zan McLeod on guitars & mandolin – , “Heathens” (duet with Jason Byrd), “Come What May” – Shamus Mc Robe/accordion, Casey O’ Neal/dobro, that bring us to well known territory: country with a bluegrass filter. With “Dying Prayer”, with Zan McLeod on slide & Celeste Crenshaw - backing vocals, we are heading into the blues swamps, “High Definition Day” – with Tommy Crawford on sax & Bill Starks on piano, “January Wind” and the title track “So Many Roads” are dressed in a nice rock coat, and with “Susie Came Home” with Fred Lieder on cello – and “Julie,” these songs could grow into becoming true radio hits.
“Lay your Burden Down”, dedicated to Buddy & Julie Miller, with Casey O’ Neal on pedal steel, and the Dylan – like songs “January Wind” and “You Can Come Back Home” are my personal favorites, although Massey seems to have borrowed the last song from somebody else … who knows from whom? “So Many Roads” …. by foot, on your bike, or lying on a lazy chair with David Massey …. it is and stays a unique experience. Mandatory Purchase!
BLISSFUL STATE OF BLUE
CtrAltCountry May 2005
Do you like roots music singer-songwriters such as Steve Forbert, John Prine, Al Stewart and Todd Snider? If so, then we can be almost sure that you will also enjoy David Massey. His “Blissful State Of Blue” is really brilliant. He recorded the album with a small army of top musicians from Washington D.C.: Dudley Connell and Mike Auldridge (from The Seldom Scene), Robbie Magruder (was drummer for many years with Mary-Chapin Carpenter), banjo virtuoso Stephen Wade, multi-instrumentalist Zan McLeod (known for his work for amongst others Paul Winter, Jim Lauderdale, David Wilcox and Mike Cross), accordionist Bill McComiskey, “Bill Kirchen and Too Much Fun” drummer Jack O’Dell, Jim Robeson (The Cathy Ponton King Band), Bill Starks (The Cathy Ponton King Band, Ruthie and the Wranglers), bluegrass singer Sally Love, and Emily and Susan Hsu from indie pop/jam band Exit Clov. With his soft, pleasant voice Massey sings thirteen intriguing tales, against a background of the sounds of the banjo, accordion and dobro, acoustic guitars and mandolins, the occasional sound of the fiddle or cello and now and again a saxophone, piano or Hammond B3. The result is really top roots music, switching between pop, Americana and bluegrass. In our view, “Blissful State Of Blue” is an album to treasure! (Listening tips: high volume for the dobro of Mike Auldridge on “Nowhere Close To Home” and the summery track “Blissful State Of Blue”.)
University of Virginia Alumni News Winter 2004
His manner wry, his intonation warm, singer/guitarist David Massey (Law ’84) has a way with lyrics. “I’ll give up streaming video/To get back my old rope swing tire.” The song is “Labor Day,” just one of the 13 gems off Massey’s debut album, Blissful State of Blue. The sentiment is evocative, nostalgic. So, too, is the sound, recalling classic seventies radio fare by James Taylor, Jim Croce, and Loggins & Messina. Massey recently put out the CD on his own label, Poetic Debris, and the disc has gotten a push from some unexpected places, like radio stations in Belgium and Switzerland that have a yen for American roots music. Not bad for a lawyer. While Massey picked up the guitar in college and, inspired by alternative-country legends like Lucinda Williams and Steve Earle, began writing songs, he actually earns his bread and butter as a partner in the Washington, D.C., law firm of Sutherland Asbill & Brennan. But there’s nothing pinstriped about his music. Instead, think comfortably faded denim. Dobro, fiddle and mandolin augment Massey’s six-string on original tunes, literate and generally wistful, that range from a prayer about Mideast conflict to musings about Pickett’s Charge in the Civil War. Of course, Massey also tries his hand at the staple folk themes of yearning, loneliness and love lost – and from the calypso lilt of “Since You Took My Ring” to the epic banjo-driven ballad “Marilee McGrath,” he turns in performances consistently fresh and authentically charming.
Comes With a Smile November 2004
You like your country with a bluegrass filter? You like banjo pickin’ in the background, a singer with a likeably gentle voice, songs that tell stories and keep you interested until the last bar? Welcome to David Massey territory. Massey has been compared to the likes of Lucinda Williams, John Prine, Steve Forbert and Todd Snider, but he really has a strong enough identity to stand up for himself. ‘Blissful State of Blue’ is a charming album, recorded with a basic band comprising Zan McLeod (guitars, bass), Robbie Magruder (drums) and Jason Byrd (backing vocals). But onto the simple musical framework that informs most of the songs on this debut CD, Massey grafts accordion, the aforementioned banjo, piano etc., to produce interesting soundscapes. Each song has a complete identity. Take The Drunken Letter, based on a note from a twenty-six-year-old fighter pilot, George Rarey, stationed in England in 1944. In it, Rarey describes his joy at becoming a father. Three months later he is dead. Massey’s adaptation of the story is sensitive and erudite, with Fred Lieder’s keening cello adding pathos. Massey’s not afraid to rock out, though, with Angeline guaranteed to get you whistling the chorus in next to no time. In many ways, Massey reminds me of a countrified Al Stewart – his voice has that high, gossamer quality that has been Stewart’s trademark for years. Added to that, his obvious storytelling ability, and you have a great combination.
Rootstime October 2004
David Massey’s songs are a mix of traditional country, some rock and folk added in, with even a hint of bluegrass. While I never had heard of David Massey before, as it is his debut album, I expect a lot from this new singer- songwriter (do they grow on trees over there?). While there unfortunately is very little information on this man’s website (fix that quickly, David) what is on the album is worth listening to. Accompanied by some of Washington DC’s finest musicians such as: Mike Auldridge on dobro, Stephen Wade on the banjo, Zan McLeod on the guitars, mandolin and percussion and as well as the producer of this disc, Bill Starks on a Hammond B3 organ, with beautiful backup vocals by Emily & Susan Hsu and bluegrass singer Sally Love, David Massey manages, with his storytelling, to blow away celebrities such as John Prine, James McMurtry, Todd Snider and others that have preceded him. The compact disc doesn’t have sparkling upbeat songs on it: for example there is a story about the death of an old man (Just an Old Dog), The Drunken Letter, about a letter an American soldier wrote after finding out about the birth of his son, the supplication to Jesus and Mohammed to protect our children (Angeline), and perhaps the prettiest number on this masterpiece, The Loneliness I’ve Known. I also noticed, but this is probably very personal, that track 5, Pretty Summer Day, reminds me of the Italian troubadour Angelo Branduardi. In other words, David Massey will do well with this disc and is a strong candidate to end up at the top of my yearly list. In conclusion I can also report that the CD is in a pretty digi-pack and for those that do not believe me, feel free to take a look at www.cdbaby.com/cd/dmassey. You can hear samples of the album, but more importantly you can buy the album because David is giving half of the proceeds to two organizations. Great album!
Americana UK September 2004
David Massey starts ‘Blissful State of Blue’ with the nostalgic lament of ‘Labor Day’, a song that looks wistfully at the passing of time, and he doesn’t really vary the mood too much for the rest of the album. Thankfully Massey’s song writing does not depress the listener, just puts them in a more reflective state of mind. In fact no other album has probably possessed a more apt title than this one. Music to soundtrack those rapidly approaching winter nights.
The Washington Legal Times August 2004
By day, he is one of the suited masses that work at various law firms in the city. By night, he is an expressive and creative songwriter.
Dave Massey, a partner at Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, released his first CD, “Blissful State of Blue,” in June. The music is a mix of folk, rock, and country styles. Massey says he has no secret ambition to be a rock ’n’ roll star, but enjoys music and songwriting as a pastime. “If I could combine law and the band and justify recording, that would be ideal,” he says. But for now, he’s keeping his day job.
Massey started playing the guitar in college. On this new CD, which Massey released on his own label, Poetic Debris, he plays the guitar and sings. He also wrote or co-wrote all 13 songs on it. For two years, Massey worked part time at the firm. His reasons for his curtailed schedule were twofold: “One, my wife was in telecom and at the time it looked like she had a lot of options and that we wouldn’t have to work as hard. Two, I wanted to spend more time with my son, who’s now 13, and see what it was like to not do law 24/7. . . . The firm was very flexible in letting me go part time.”
Massey says he got into songwriting to amuse himself, but grew to enjoy it. “I just happened to pick up my guitar and start writing songs,” he explains. “It came in a burst of energy.” He adds, “Songwriting is what I really like. I love the challenge of writing something meaningful.” “I grew up on rock and folk rock, and I started listening to Americana music in the late 1980s, artists like Lucinda Williams and Steve Earle,” he says. “Americana is folk rock with different flavors like old-time bluegrass and country. The songs are real. They’re about real people.”
Now back at the firm full time, the 45-year-old Massey says his interest in performing Americana music was piqued when he took on the National Council of Traditional Arts (NCTA) as a pro bono client in 2002. The NCTA is a nonprofit organization that preserves traditional arts in America. He says he became friendly with many of the council’s musicians who introduced him to other local Americana artists. He started playing with them for fun and kept on doing it until he decided to do his own recording. Friends from the NCTA helped Massey get in touch with local record producer Zan McLeod. Local musicians on the CD include Steven Wade, who performed “Banjo Dancing,” a longrunning show at the Arena Stage; Robbie Magruder, who was Mary Chapin Carpenter’s drummer for many years; Dudley Connell, a lead singer for the Seldom Scene; Jim Robeson, who played in the North Star Band, a popular group along the East Coast, and now plays in The Cathy Ponton King Band; Mike Auldridge, a well-known dobro player; and Emily and Susan Hsu, members of indie pop rock quintet Exit Clov.
Massey held a CD premier party on June 27 at Jammin’ Java in Vienna, Va. Half the proceeds from the show were split between the NCTA and Stars for Stripes, a group that entertains American troops overseas. “It was really fun, and I liked raising money for charity by doing something I enjoy,” Massey says. Approximately 100 people came to the show, and Jammin’ Java has asked Massey to return.
Many of the songs on the album are in the first person, but Massey says his songs aren’t about him. “I write in first-person because it’s easier to get into the character of the song,” he says. “People have said that I’m not as country as I sound, because I get into the characters when I sing.” In “The Drunken Letter,” Massey explores the persona of George Rarey, a World War II fighter pilot stationed in England who was killed by German anti-aircraft fire. Three months before his death, Rarey received a letter from his wife telling him he was a new father. The letter he wrote back to her was printed in The Washington Post and served as Massey’s inspiration. “A dad his son would never see/a fading memory/Just a drunken letter pressed inside a book/That’s all that’s left for me,” Massey wrote. Massey also got inspiration from the Civil War. “Pretty Summer Day” is about the famed Pickett’s Charge up Cemetery Ridge during the battle of Gettysburg. In the song, Massey contrasts the beautiful summer morning with the gore and horror of the battle. “Damn Yanks won’t agree to just let us be, so we’ll send them all to hell/Then walk back to old Virginia before we say farewell.”
Guest appearances by musicians playing instruments like the cello, the banjo, the fiddle, and the organ keep each piece lively and unique, appropriately fitting the lyrics. Massey says that his family has been supportive: “They worry when the lyrics aren’t upbeat, but I have to remind them I’m writing in character.” He also says his colleagues at Sutherland Asbill & Brennan “think I’ve lost my mind, but they went to the CD release party and were impressed."