David James Allen “The Architect”

Little Known Records, 2022

A ten-year meditation on Imposter Syndrome with the music of the last 60 years.

‘The Architect’ is 32-year-old Canadian David James Allen’s third album and is based around a ten-year-old idea of writing about the challenges of dealing with Imposter Syndrome. At the time, Allen wrote the title track but then abandoned the idea of making a full album and recorded with rock band Stonetrotter, and made two solo albums before he decided to revisit the original concept behind ‘The Architect’. The album not only describes Allen’s journey of dealing with Imposter Syndrome, which includes a feeling of significant self-doubt but also takes inspiration from various events and relationships from the last ten years. It marks the first time that Allen has worked with an outside producer when he decided to bring in William D. Crann as co-producer. Allen’s second album, 2020’s ‘Radiations’, was his pandemic album, and he decided this time that ‘The Architect’ should be a live-off-the-floor recording at Crann’s Catherine North Studios in Hamilton, Ontario.

David James Allen includes production, mixing, and graphic design in his CV, and cites prime ‘70s artists Harry Nilsson, Bill Withers, Al Green, and Joan Armatrading as well as Canadian stalwarts The Band and Joni Mitchell, with latter-day Gregory Porter as prime influences. Dylan is such an obvious influence it hardly merits a mention. This variety of influences is reflected in the music on ‘The Architect and the music could have been written at various times over the last 60 years. The album opens with ‘For The Times’ and a harmonica and mix of electric and steel guitar before the vocals come in dealing with creative people who are sometimes too focused on themselves and can ignore some of the love that surrounds them. ‘Bound To The Game’ has a more pronounced country beat and is more of a road song about the trial and tribulations of being a working musician. Next, we have ‘Please Let Me In’ which has an upbeat gospel feel. ‘My Door Is Open’ has simple repetitive lyrics to drive the message about being open and honest about emotions directly home, which again relates to Allen’s Imposter Syndrome experiences. Things are mixed up on ‘Nobody’ which could be a ‘70s rock track that has slide and fiddle, and the lyrics question society’s values which shows the influence of Bob Dylan. The ten-year-old title track, ‘The Architect’, is next and unsurprisingly it features piano and steel guitar taken at a stately pace to describe what Imposter Syndrome actually feels like. We are in ‘60s folk territory with ‘Unsatisfied’ which borrows the opening line of Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Sound Of Silence’ but this time it is “Goodbye darkness, my old friend” not “Hello darkness, my old friend”.  Folk is a key component of ‘White Water Jack’ with a background sound of pedal steel. ‘Wendy’ is a relationship song that begins acoustically before building with a drum track. Appropriately, ‘The Architect’ closes with the reflective ‘Share On You Silent Tongues’.

While David James Allen has ensured there is a consistent theme to ‘The Architect’ and has delivered a more musically sophisticated album than his earlier two solo albums, and his music, while reflecting modern concerns, could have been written at any time in the last 60 years with a definite ’70s influence, the question is has he done enough to really stand out from the crowd of equally competent similar artists? While it is true he has shown personal progress, his music while proficient on many levels, is not yet truly distinctive. However, ‘The Architect’ does give an insight into Imposter Syndrome for anyone who has a genuine interest or curiosity, and for everyone else, it is still an enjoyable listen.

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About Martin Johnson 414 Articles
I've been a music obsessive for more years than I care to admit to. Part of my enjoyment from music comes from discovering new sounds and artists while continuing to explore the roots of American 20th century music that has impacted the whole of world culture.
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