Mead's girl raises the roof

Review by Jack Foley

DAVID Mead may not as big as David Gray (an artist to whom he is often compared) yet, but anyone who catches him at Marylebone's Kashmir Club (where he frequently plays while on trips to the UK) is sure to see a star in the making.

I was lucky enough to catch him on Wednesday, November 28, 2001, and the acoustic set he delivered was brilliant. The Kashmir Club does not charge to get in and the artists who perform do not get paid to do so; hence members of the audience are asked to pay only one thing.... attention - but in Mead's case this was never going to be a problem.

He is a young artist in the classic pop style. Those who have heard either of his two albums - The Luxury of Time or Mine and Yours - will already know what to expect; heroic melodies scored to upstart pianos, brass, violins, violas, lap steels and aggressive guitars and drums. His influences when growing up include the likes of Billy Joel and Dixie Gospel.

On Wednesday, however, we got Mead stripped bare. No support, just a regular guy and his guitar. You could occasionally sense a nervousness about him when called upon to play his current single, Girl On The Roof, because, thanks to recent air play on stations such as BBC LDN, people now know what it is supposed to sound like.

But, for the most part, he remains an endearing performer. Quick witted, and never afraid to poke fun at himself, the management of the Kashmir, or the UK listeners, he has what it takes to be considered a good front man. And that's before you get to his voice. It is very strong.

Girl On The Roof, which I have previously mentioned, was the highlight of the evening. It is upbeat, immediately catchy and deserves to finally bring the artist a wider fan base. His new album (Mine and Yours) is packed with similar quality, with tracks ranging from Flamin' Angel, Venus Again, Only At The Movies and What's On Your Mind.

The Kashmir Club, by the way, is the ideal place to catch him. Located in the Basement, at 6 Nottingham Place, W1 (Tel: 020 7224 2556), it is an intimate venue which evokes memories of the dark, smoke-filled Blues clubs of Memphis and the Deep South. You can eat there, drink there and listen - but remember, you must pay attention.

More about David Mead (taken from his website):

David Mead recorded his debut album, The Luxury of Time, with producers Peter Collins (Nik Kershaw, Brian Setzer, Jewel) and Jason Lehning, a collaboration of veteran and emerging talents who helped Mead realize his ambitious designs.

He comments: "I was basically left to do the album the way I wanted. We could have done a more stripped down record, but I have a soft spot for large sound. In the end, we went for the effect of a really produced recording done with more homemade sounds."

The result is a fresh traditionalism with an effortlessly neo-classic vibe, a thrilling mix of control and spontaneity.

"All the musicians were more like guests," he continued. "We would do however many takes, then just sit down right there and have coffee."

That explains why heavyweights like drummers Kenny Aronoff (John Mellencamp) and Paul Deakin (The Mavericks), saxophonist Jim Horn (Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, Steely Dan), 75 year old lap steel player Kayton Roberts (Hank Snow), and guitarist Rusty Anderson (Lisa Loeb, New Radicals) turned in such stellar performances.

After signing with RCA in June 1998, Mead traveled to France to participate in Miles Copeland's songwriting retreat, Les Vendages de Troubadors. He then traveled to England to work with Lehning and the legendary producer Gus Dudgeon. The sessions yielded a significant direction for the vision of The Luxury of Time.

"My album, in the end, has a definite sense of time passing," Mead smiles. "It's about graduating from one part of your life to another, from being the life of the party to realizing that you don't necessarily have to go to it anymore."