Micah Dalton - Pawnshop

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Maybe I’m overstating, but to me, sepia tones in photography tend to point back to a bygone era, before color filled our printed world. While certainly not historic, sepia toned pictures of wagon trains, gun-slingers, or a grandmas in their rocking chairs do preserve the historical. From the era when these originated, there’s certainly something “earthy” or that gets back to the roots of modern life.

I’ve been fortunate with CD’s with sepia cover art. Shannon McNally’s “Geronimo” is a treasure, musically, lyrically, and vocally. And more recently, I’ve added Micah Dalton’s “Pawnshop” to the ever-growing collection. While neither has a true sepia treatment to the cover photograph, there are musical similarities as both tell their stories mixing the modern with the equivalent of sepia-music.

First, there’s the basics: acoustic guitar, electric guitar, drums, bass, piano, B3 organ. But then there are the more organic sounds: mandolin, cello, dobro, banjo, hand drum. The mix of these instruments is only occasionally heard in radio-land today and, therefore, likely absent of major commercial intentions.

“Pawnshop” is doubly blessed, which is to say that it is presented in two ways. The first is a booklet that includes a short story based on a man named Pawnshop, complete with sketches. Odd characters come in fast sequence to a drifter’s tale, who stops in a named but nameless crossroads of a town. The story is divided by 12 titles which roughly separate the story into vignettes.

Each of these also corresponds to the name of the songs on the CD. Whereas the story tells a tale ultimately of a man who is an observer of people and their traits, Dalton wisely avoids a storied narrative and touches on an interaction or emotion that relates to each.

Dalton describes his music as alt-soul. Whatever that is, it may be that. However, the songs embrace blues and electric guitar jazz licks as underpinnings, and there’s not a horn section to be found. Each of the songs is blessed with an astounding taste for accompaniment, and the tunes are great from beginning to end.

An irony is that in the mid-1970’s, some of these may have found room on the radio. Today, alt-soul or not, it’s likely never to be heard. Dalton’s CD is offered by a non-profit label and is relatively hard to find, but his is definitely a voice to be heard. I could point out that .mp3s are available at some sites, but that would be hypocritical, and you wouldn’t get the short story or the sepia reminder that some things are worth preserving.

5 Stars

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