It wasn't long ago that Judy Bailey was known as the Mother of the Nation. It would be easy to bestow Dave Dobbyn with the equivalent title, Father of the Nation. However I reckon it would be more appropriate to dub him a National Treasure and leave it at that.
Since the heady days of Th' Dudes and DD Smash, from 1986 forward Dobbyn has mostly been a solo act, and Harmony House is his eighth album, not counting three compilation albums and one live set, and his first in eight years, following Anotherland.
Harmony House then is familiar but also different. Dave Dobbyn's decision to record the songs in Wellington and engage the Phoenix Foundation's Luka Buda and Sam Flynn Scott as muses and producers has really paid dividends. Yes, we have ground zero with the rock-steady rhythms we associate with Dobbyn, but there's also a freshness and subtle touches that make this a very contemporary set.
Above all, Harmony House is a very personal album. Dave Dobbyn's homage to Anneliesje, his wife of 33 years, is very evident through many of the songs.
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However, it's not mawkish or over sentimental, because the lyrics are wrapped within a soundscape that really works.
If anything, Dobbyn's maturity as a fifty-something songwriter and performer, along with his collaboration with Buda and Scott, is the trick to making Harmony House a must-listen album. There have been some great albums already in 2016 and Harmony House is up there with the best of them.
Rating 5/5 stars.