(Self-released, CD, digital download)
After listening to his 2009 debut, Paths, I kinda fell in love with Zack duPont. (Note to Zack: I mean that in a platonic way. Don’t want things to be awkward when I run into you around town.) Anyway, it was a humble yet astonishing record that revealed duPont to be an uncommonly gifted player and a thoughtful, nuanced songwriter. Removed from the “porn-prog” shenanigans of his other gig, playing guitar with Japhy Ryder, duPont delivered a shimmering suite of indie folk that evokes the likes of Iron & Wine, M. Ward and Nick Drake. Yeah, I know. That’s stupidly high praise, bordering on music-crit sacrilege. But give that record a spin and see if you don’t hear the similarities. I dare you.
Now duPont is back with Somewhere in Between. Backed this time by a crack band, he fleshes out the sparse compositional style heard on his debut and proves to be a versatile and ambitious songwriter, and an arranger with a singular style and swagger.
Those expecting Paths Vol. 2 might be in for a surprise. Rather than wallowing in the hushed confessional style that characterized that record, duPont lightens up and offers breezy pop, jazz-tinged rock, and art folk that slyly winks at adult contemporary. He plays with conviction and sophistication, transcending sentimentality but never lacking emotional potency.
Whether lamenting the passing of a friend (“Rusty”), honoring his brother (“Brother the Hero”) or musing on love (“Jupiter”), duPont writes, and sings, with delicacy. There’s a calming quality about duPont’s music, even when it’s emotionally heavy. He creates the sense that when life seems bleak, everything’s going to be OK. In lesser hands, this could be a recipe for maudlin disaster. Not so here. What’s remarkable is that the sentiment feels genuine coming from duPont, and it seems to flow from him effortlessly.
While duPont is impressive, his bandmates also deserve some credit for the album’s mood and atmosphere. Bassist John Rogone, who provides a tasteful low end, is in perfect sync with drummer Tim Sharbaugh. Meanwhile, pianist Peter Krag illuminates spaces with light, airy keystrokes that balance duPont’s nimble guitar work. Somewhere in Between is a sterling effort from one of Vermont’s rising songwriting stars.
Zack duPont releases Somewhere in Between at the FlynnSpace in Burlington on Tuesday, May 29.