Seldom will you hear songs like Davie Simmons’ “Halcyon Days” in 2019 or beyond. This is a track out of time, in many respects, and recalls an era in popular music when songwriters aspired to daring heights that contemporary practitioners rarely dare aiming for. San Leandro, California based Simmons and his longtime friends and collaborators Andrew Camp and Esa Lehti are true believers in the power of music and poetry to find common ground and have known each other since the 1960’s, a halcyon time in our own national history. They are older now, without question, but their belief in the abiding transformative power of performance art remains intact as well as a willingness to bring it to life. This track will make a mark on all but the most cynical of listeners and possesses piercing humanity.
It has the unique attribute of mixing light rock with a distinct literary sensibility thanks to its grounding in Greek myths. Simmons’ songwriting never belabors the connection to the point of obscurity but, instead, mixes that unusual reference point with more accessible concerns. You need not be well versed in Greek mythology to comprehend this track. It brims over, as well, with tactile imagery indicative of its poetic origins but, once again, Simmons writes with cool economy and never flirts with self-indulgence. It is obvious throughout the entire lyric that his foremost concern is communicating with the audience rather than impressing them with verbal fireworks.
His vocal is often multi-tracked and it further accentuates the theatrical qualities driving his performance. This will be no surprise for those familiar with Simmons’ previous release “Angel Music Lover” and many will be impressed by his deft balance of the dramatic elements without ever succumbing to melodrama. He varies his delivery at key points during the song rather than following a straight line from the opening to its end and mixing up his approach deepens the song’s possibilities in a way a less creative approach would have never done.
The musical arrangement opens the track on a languid and deliberate note, but it soon adopts a mid-tempo pace and Esa Lehti’s light guitar jangle recalls the musician’s proving ground in the 1960’s without ever sounding too mired in the past. Lehti, likewise, offers up tasty lead guitar runs throughout the track and maintains a melodic focus that helps sharpen the song’s impact for listeners. The handful of tempo shifts built into the arrangement provides additional variation that aids in retaining a listener’s interest.
It is refreshing to hear something so unique and singular in a virtual wasteland of creative bankruptcy. “Halcyon Days” is intelligent and well-constructed, but it also reminds us that popular music is capable of so much more than songs about heartbreak, lust, love, and the simple pleasures of youth. It is a track that is engaging on every level – it will provoke thought, but it likewise will connect with listeners physically and proves to be quite an entertaining and imaginative ride from beginning to end.