"I kinda have a 'thing' for the art of the 70s," Don DiLego writes in the liner notes to his third album, Photographs Of 1971. "There was a particular sense of style and rhythm in what we saw on the movie screen and in still photographs."
DiLego's affinity for that much-maligned decade doesn't stop there. With its compressed acoustic guitars and flat snare drum sound, Photographs Of 1971, firmly establish him as a disciple of the singer-songwriter movement of the early-to-mid-70s, and there are plenty of references to that genre throughout the CD. The intro to the gorgeous "At The Texaco" references John Lennon's "Jealous Guy," "Falling Into Space" uses the rhythm from Tom Petty's "American Girl" as a starting point, and the chorus "Rosemary's Suite" contains harmonies that wouldn't have sounded out of place on a Badfinger classic. Finally, there's also a blistering cover of The Kinks' "I'm Not Like Everybody Else."
DiLego even breaks the 16-track, 59-minute CD into two sides, as if it were an LP. That old-school method of sequencing gives him the opportunity to showcase the lovely "Dreaming" as the opening track. Side Two opens with the title track, the album's emotional centerpiece, and then moves into a sort of suite, with three self-written hymns interspersed throughout the remaining songs to provide a sense of continuity as the arrangements grow sparser and more experimental from the straightforward tracks on Side One.
Yet for all its evocations of thirty-five years ago, DiLego is not a nostalgia act determined to recreate the greatness Late For The Sky or Sweet Baby James. Rather, he's drawing upon their influence to remind us of what can be achieved by emphasizing introspection and creativity in his music. His musical sensibilities are rooted in the current Americana/alt-country sounds of Ryan Adams and the early Wilco albums, as baritone guitars, pedal steels and feedback enter in and out of the mix to provide tasteful coloring without adding clutter. But most impressive of all is DiLego's voice, an emotional versatile instrument that can go from a whisper to a soaring falsetto in an instant.
With Photographs Of 1971, Don DiLego has taken another step towards establishing himself as one of this generation's best up-and-coming singer-songwriters. Highly recommended.