Published February 28, 2013
Author of 'Garden Song' to perform in Olympia tonightMOLLY GILMORE
David Mallett is not necessarily a household name. But even if you havent heard of the Maine singer-songwriter, youre likely to know his most famous tune, Garden Song.Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow. All it takes is a rake and a hoe, and a piece of fertile ground.The song is sung all over the world and has been recorded by at least 150 artists, including Arlo Guthrie, Maria Muldaur, and The Muppets.I was surprised by how it took off, said Mallett, who lives in tiny Sebec, Maine. It was such a simple thing. That was about 1974 or 75. I knew a lot of people who were going back to the land and doing organic farming. The song was a gift to the back-to-the-land movement.Hell play in Olympia tonight, his first visit here since the 1990s. Its a beautiful town, he said, and he has fond memories of his last visit to Traditions Cafe.I had a great time, he said. It was a really interesting crowd that came. It was a great vibe.Asked if he has a favorite version of Garden Song including his own, which first appeared on his 1978 debut album and is also on last years highlights collection Greenin Up he said its tough to choose.I like them all, he said. Every time I hear it, I like hearing it.One of my favorites is Tommy Makem and Liam Clancys, recorded in the 80s. They made it a popular song in Ireland.Mallett began his career at age 11, forming a folk duo with his brother.I always knew I was going to be a singer, he said. From the moment I could talk, I was always singing.What led me to folk was the appeal of the acoustic guitar. This was the late 50s, early 60s, when you could make an act with a guitar and a voice.Hes been going strong ever since, releasing 15 albums and writing songs that have been sung by Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, Kathy Mattea and many others. Hes toured internationally and been a guest on NPRs A Prairie Home Companion.He was even named one of the centurys best Mainers by the Bangor Daily News.Mallett is a first-rate folk singer and writer, Billboards Ed Morris wrote. His portraits and townscapes are camera sharp, and his knowledge of his subjects is profound.One of Malletts favorite compliments came from Pete Seeger, he said. And it was thanks to Garden Song.I got a note from Pete Seeger, Mallett said. Great song. Im singing it, and Im changing a couple of words. And I was like, Thats OK.Ive known Pete my whole adult life because of that song, and hes a great guy.