It is a perfect winter album – fitting for a time of elongated hours, of
stillness and quiet. A time of drawing in and looking in. A time of being
within. Its sound evokes all of this, yet its lyrics speak to an interior
life of upheaval and change. It is an album of contradiction and clarity,
of simplicity and great depth.
The Houses of Healing is the ninth studio album from Springdale-based
singer/songwriter Dave Tate. And here, he is at his best. Houses combines
Tate’s soulful voice, his intimate acoustic style and poetic lyrics into a
singular sound experience. It is haunting, moving, alive and hopeful. This
album is capable of inspiring both tears and contemplative silence. It is
capable of acting as ambient background music or as soul-stirring
instigator. Such is the talent of Dave Tate.
Of the 11 tracks on Houses, my favorites include “I’ve Known This,” End of
Seas,” “By Your Side” and “Karmic Circle.” Each of these has a melodic
chorus that acts as a grounding influence in the midst of major spiritual
revelation. Themes of nonattachment, surrender, awakening and rebirth are
common on Houses. “Karmic Circle” is indicative of this as he sings,
the night, wrapped in the light of you/ I feel the pull, with every
move/ I’d grown so tired of running away/ From the fog and the pain/ So I
turn and walk into the unknown.”
There are times when Tate’s songs remind me of Rumi, both in subject
and tone. He speaks of his transformative surrender, of being “new and
to what I was.” And he also mentions a figure who ushered him through this
process. Just as with Rumi’s “beloved,” I sense there are layers to the
being referenced in Tate’s songs – from the cosmic Divine, to the intimate
divine. This is just a hint at some of the depth of The Houses of Healing.
And this is only my interpretation.
The album is also full of many poetic phrases in which my writer-self
delights, like “Our time is right for divine living art,” “the gaping
of soul,” and “Underneath words is the language of space.” With every
listen, I find another level of it to love.
The only jarring moment I find on Houses is the second track, “Fall
It leads in with flute music that feels incongruous with the rest of the
album. Perhaps this is my personal bias. Living in the Southwest, I’m used
to flute music being used, at times, as a stand-in for a sense of
spirituality and connection to the divine. Here, Dave Tate shows us he’s
capable of the real thing with just his voice and guitar.
I don’t mean to make this album sound like it was crafted only for
and Buddhists. Tate’s talent is bigger than our ability to label it. The
Houses of Healing is contemporary, spiritual folk…and it is so much more.