SARANAC LAKE - Maine singer-songwriter David Mallett, best known for his "Garden Song," will perform at BluSeed Studios' first "Live at BluStage" concert of the fall season on Friday.
"Inch by inch and row by row, gonna make this garden grow. All it takes is a rake and a hoe and a piece of fertile ground." That's the famous opening of a song that was sung by Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, John Denver, the Muppets and many others. But it was written by Mallett, reportedly while he was actually gardening on his family's farm in Maine. The catchy tune attracted notice for his first, self-titled album, which was released in 1978.
He claims "Garden Song" has been recorded more than 150 times. Other famous musicians who have covered his songs include Allison Kraus, Emmylou Harris and Kathy Mattea.
Mallett's music career began when he was 11 years old, playing in a country and folk duo with his five-year-older brother, Neil. The Mallett Brothers hosted a weekly television show out of Bangor, Maine, from 1967 to 1969 and released three regional 45-rpm singles.
He began writing his own songs after discovering singer-songwriters like Gordon Lightfoot and Bob Dylan while he was an acting student at the University of Maine.
Mallett got his big break as a musician after he met Noel Paul Stookey, formerly of Peter, Paul and Mary, in 1975. Stookey had moved to Blue Hill, Maine, was opening a recording studio and took Mallett under his wing, producing his first three albums and getting him national attention.
Mallett has made 14 albums altogether, never taking more than a five-year break in between. The most recent is "Alright Now" in 2009. He has toured consistently in folk clubs, concert halls and festivals.
He explored the spoken word realm with his 2007 release, "The Fable True," a collection of Henry David Thoreau's stories about his visits to Maine in the mid 1800s, with an instrumental soundtrack.
Mallett's songs are essentially rural. The struggle of the common man and the loss of American towns and landscapes are the subjects of many of his songs.
At his home, he writes his songs in a room of an old farmhouse, with a view across the field and a tintype of his great-great grandfather on the wall.
"I like to keep reaching out to touch the past," he said in his website bio, "to connect it with what's going on now. To me music is one of the few things that is timeless. Human emotion is one continual chain."
A modern version of the Mallett Brothers Band is led by David's sons Luke and Will. Based in Portland, Maine, and founded in 2009, the group is picking up a great deal of positive press these days in New England. It played at Saranac Lake's Waterhole on Sept. 15.