by paul woodfin, face magazine, 08.09.04
Anyone who knows Mitch Alden
(Mr. Now is Now) is well-acquainted with his unfailingly sunny disposition. One
wonders if Alden ever gets bummed about anything. (Waiter, I’ll have what he’s
having.) So it is perfectly consistent and appropriate that this new CD should
be titled Days of Summer. Though still sporting his familiar, slightly
disturbing (but very cool) “hand with fingers with hands” artwork, this new CD
is a quantum leap from his earlier self-titled sampler and his Transitions CD.
Mitch burst onto the Portland scene in 2000 winning over club owners and
media personnel with his tireless, upbeat self-promotion. His 5-song sampler,
primarily done in Massachusetts, served as his calling card and a foot in the
door. Transitions saw Mitch working with Maine musicians and getting settled
into his new home. A feature of Transitions and of Now is Now at that time was
the intentional rotation of band members. Since Now is Now played New York City
almost as frequently as they played Bangor, Boston or Brunswick the band’s
roster fluctuated according to locale and availability of musicians. But no
more. Now is Now is now [I’ve been waiting to work that in] a permanent 3-member
ensemble, traveling as a band from gig to gig no matter how far flung. And it
shows in the quality of this new CD.
Days of Summer feels like a
well-rehearsed band. With Neil Carroll on drums and Dan Paul on bass these
arrangements are tight and more adventurous than earlier efforts. Accents are
precise, dynamics are utilized to real advantage, textures are interesting and
crisp, vocal harmonies—almost non-existent before—are clever and right on the
mark. At the risk of putting the proverbial cart before the horse, having a
regular group to interact with seems to have contributed to the overall quality
of songwriting, as well. Yes, Alden’s grown as a songwriter and musician and
yes, certainly his new home and bucolic lifestyle in the foothills of the White
Mountains has inspired sweet melodies, but working with Carroll and Paul hasn’t
hurt the process.
Listening to Mitch’s lyrics one can detect that
beneath that cheerful exterior there may actually lurk a guy with worries like
the rest of us. But a little artistic therapy—channel those woes!—works wonders.
As good rock ‘n’ roll songs often do, Alden focuses a lot on love and romance.
The days of summer lasted longer with someone to share them with. But that was
then and now she’s gone. Or, in “Better Days,” wouldn’t breaking up be better
than dealing with the way things are now? He tells his partner, Have the courage
to say goodbye. In “Fall Away,” another wish-you-were-with-me song, forgiveness
is asked for, apologies made. And in “Golden Leaves,” fitting that it’s the last
song on the CD, a delicate acoustic melody paints a picture of an angel, the
love of the singer’s life. Occasionally Mitch’s introspection takes a different,
more worldly focus such as peace but told from the totally original point of
view of a little girl painting a picture of the world in bright colors
(“Paintbox”), or when he questions his role and direction in life (“Watch the
This really feels like a solid effort from one of Maine’s best
artists. With recent CD release parties from here to NY and points in between,
word is getting out! Now is Now is definitely a force on the scene. If you have
a chance to catch the band live, do so. But in the meantime, check out this CD!
woodfin is a staff writer for face magazine.