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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Dave Cousins

Secret Paths (Witchwood Media)

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Earlier this year, Dave Cousins—lead vocalist for England’s longtime progressiverock/folk outfit The Strawbs— entered the studio with pedalsteel guitarist Melvin Duffy to record a CD that he could support on his current U.S.

“Stories and Songs Tour.” The result is Secret Paths, which is only Cousins’ third proper solo album since 1972. Because it lacks a full band, the 11-song disc isn’t nearly as lively as 2007’s The Boy in the Sailor Suit. But Cousins wraps his Mark-Knopfler-meets-Nils-Lofgren vocals around these warm if sparse melodies, and opening track “Song of a Sad Girl” is one of the most beautiful songs, musically and lyrically, of this young year.

“Falling In Love Again” closes the album with Duffy’s memorable Hawaiian guitar. In between, a melancholy monotony wavers over the music, but never quite detracts from Cousins’ admirable, stripped-back performance.

Dave Cousins performs at Shank Hall on March 18. —Michael Popke