From the May/June 2020 issue of Acoustic Guitar | By Kenny Berkowitz
In his day job, Dave Simonett is the lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter of
Trampled by Turtles, the best prog-bluegrass band to ever bust out of Duluth. On his own, he’s released two albums as Dead Man Winter, including the cathartic post-divorce Furnace (2017), and now he’s finally released an album under his own name. “Lots of things have changed for me, but a lot has stayed the same,” says Simonett, trying to describe how this solo album is different from all the others. “I know that’s ambiguous.”
It sure is. Like a lot of Simonett’s work, the songs on Red Tail recall mid-’70s Dylan, who left the nearby town of Hibbing 20 years before Simonett was born. Some of that sound still echoes here, just like it does all over the world, but Simonett focuses on the purest Duluth distillate: the slow, cinematic roll of “Revoked,” the haunted loneliness of “By the Light of the Moon,” and the half-hearted romanticism of “It Comes and Goes,” with its insistence that “I like the view out your window/I like the coming cold.”
There’s plenty to love here, starting with the warm, western fingerpicking of Simonett’s acoustic guitar, then moving on to the simple gravitas of piano, the low moan of pedal steel, the occasional burst of distorted electric guitar, and the steady boom-chuck assurance of bass drum. Mostly, for me, it’s the quiet lyricism of the songwriting, the sound of Simonett working on his craft and finding new colors to describe this moment of plainspoken, midwestern honesty.