Given his prodigious output and continuing contributions to other artists’s songbooks, the title of Trent Dabbs’s latest effort seems wholly appropriate. Ten albums on, he continues to maintain his upward gaze, crafting songs that sail at a propulsive pace even when they’re at odds within his noir folkish sentiments. The Optimist boasts only eight songs, but each one is a treasure, whether it comes in the form of the symphonic sweep that’s delivered by “Don’t Believe In Stars,” the stealth-like serenade of “She’s a Pill,” or simply a mellow moment of repose, as typified by the hushed grandeur of “Disappearing Weekend” and “Elephant in the Room.” Each track succeeds in awakening the senses, making appreciation all the more immediate.
That’s not to say Dabbs doesn’t have his fill of contradictions. A kinetic rhythm often contrasts decidedly with his low lit vocals. And while he’s a master of offering pensive pronouncements — note the slow yet steady drift of the aptly titled “In My Own Way” — he also shows himself to be a reliable rocker, as demonstrated by a song like “Jennifer In Cursive” or the way he takes a celebratory stance on the percolating and propulsive “Closing Time.” The mastery he exhibits when it comes to his songwriting skills never lacks, making each of these melodies some kind of sound that can be savoured.
That said, it’s absolutely worthwhile to catch up with his previous efforts, if for no other reason that to prove Dabbs is no slacker. Your Side Now, Quite Often and Southerner are all outstanding acquisitions, part of a backstory that affirms the fact that Dabbs has always been able to match attitude with aptitude. A singer/songwriter of considerable consequence, Dabbs delivers in a way that makes any encounter both rich and rewarding.