Darryl Purpose,
Travelers' Code
(Tangible Music, 1999)

"I stand before you ... naked before you ... true as the river."

Based on liner notes hinting at his blackjack career, activism in the peace movement and a weekend in jail, Darryl Purpose's life has dealt him a myriad of potential songwriting experiences. Showing the storytelling influence of Harry Chapin with a bit of Bob Dylan thrown in, Purpose's third CD, Traveler's Code, revels in emotional nakedness, smoothly weaving images of love, fear, loneliness and regrets through its 11 tracks.

The album opens with "Mr. Schwinn," a song which initially elicits cringes at forced rhymes like "Mr. Schwinn was as thin as a pelican's grin," but as the story progresses telling of the Schwinn's enduring hope for love and his influence on those around him, the rhyming complements the message. Purpose won the National Songwriting Competition in January 1998 with this ballad.

The poignant "Child of Hearts" also combines pain and hope revealing the honesty of a 4-year old in meeting her father, "You're not the papa of my prayers, you're not the king of hearts across the sea, you're big and scary and almost never home...." Ellis Paul contributes harmony to Purpose's hard-edged vocals.

"Ring on My Hand," a countrified duet with Lucy Kaplansky, celebrates a couple's realization of commitment, with "Look there's a ring on my hand." While, the gravelly baritone of Purpose and sweet clear soprano of Kaplansky combine beautifully, the lyrics don't evoke the raw emotional power of most of the other tracks on this album. This song feels like Purpose and co-writer Robert Morgan Fisher (who also shared credits on "Mr. Schwinn" and "Travelers' Code") set out to write a wedding song.

"The Last Great Kiss of the 20th Century" is an intelligent romp. In this ballad, a single guy takes a chance, seeking out an acquaintance on December 31, 1999. The two take a walk on the Santa Monica pier and at the last moment of the year, culminate their affections in the "last great kiss of the 20th Century, no time to think about the millions before." She's impressed but points out that the century doesn't really end for another full year. The spoken ending to the story is a little corny, but fun.

The remaining songs continue the themes with powerfully sung lyrics. The solo acoustic guitar behind "True as the River" enhances its simple message of looking beneath the surface. "Annieland" exposes a yearning to stop running away from love coupled with a sweet melody.

The only instrumental cut, "Smoke and Mirrors," showcases Purpose's proficiency on guitar, complimented beautifully by Daryl S. on the violin. The combination is mesmerizing and all too brief. "For the Story" returns Purpose to the folk vocals he does so well, this time sliding into melancholy, leaving loves for a life constantly searching for stories and songs.

"The Stars All Live at Sunny's House," boasting a most humable melody, shows a woman living in isolation in this prayerful ballad that that pulls in elements of folklore spirituality and Catholicism. In contrast, "The Circle" creates vivid images of fire and smoking and dancing as initiates are welcomed to a pagan ceremony.

With "Travelers' Code (Follow the Light)," Purpose returns to the combined hope and yearning for love that began the journey of this album. Kate Miner, Hannah Dwinell and Olivia Miner contribute beautiful harmonies to this slow, spiritual farewell.

Travelers' Code is a diverse and emotionally charged effort from a fine songwriter and musician.

[ by Julie Bowerman ]

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