The last Pearlfishers release, 2003's Sky Meadows, remains one of my Top 20 most-played albums of the decade. So, of course, I've been awaiting this follow-up with mile-high expectations.
It doesn't disappoint.
As before, David Scott walks with head held proud as a magna cum laude student of pop music. He's absorbed the orchestral leanings of Jimmy Webb and Burt Bacharach. He's studied the controlled use of the major 7th chord, taking lessons from Todd Rundgren and Brian Wilson. He's borrowed from the jauntiness of Nilsson and Newman. But beyond his academics, Scott has an innate gift for hooky melodies that sound natural and surprising at the same time.
All of this is filtered through his Scottish nature (as in Scotland), that peculiar highland temperament that balances optimism and melancholy in equal measure. On one hand, you get the sugar rush of "London's In Love," "With You On My Mind" and the title track (with it's unabashedly romantic chorus "Baby, I begin and end with you"). On the other, there's the meditative ballad "Eco Schools" and the gorgeous rainy day nod to Michel Legrand on "Umbrellas of Shibuya."
New to the Pearlfishers' palette this time is a healthy dose of '70s style soul. "Send Me A Letter" rips a page from the Thom Bell/Linda Creed songbook, while the cleverly titled "Womack and Womack" shows off Scott's delicate falsetto and flair for writing Philly string arrangements. "Saccharine soul will get you through the long night," he sings. Amen to that.
In a more just world, these songs would be getting airplay right beside Rihanna, John Mayer, and Maroon 5. But for those who appreciate beautifully written and arranged pop music, David Scott's Pearlfishers remain a hidden treasure.
If Scott is bothered by his relative obscurity, he doesn't show it. As he sings on the closing song: "And call me cock-eyed if you will, but I don't see that dark hill, I just see the rainbow." • Bill DeMain