Harold Budd's discs tend to end up in the new age section of the record store, because his music is generally pleasant, quiet, and soothing. But where most new age composers go for the obvious (and sometimes saccharine) melody, Budd veers off into ambiguity; he also lacks the mystical bent that often goes along with the new age style. Instead, his compositional voice is more like that of a detached observer – one who creates beauty without getting too involved with it. By the Dawn's Early Light finds Budd writing for various combinations of viola, guitar, harp, and keyboards. All of the music is lovely, but not all of the compositions sound complete. In several cases, they sound like raw ideas rushed into the studio before their time. Guitarist Bill Nelson provides much of the interest throughout the album, and the sighing, slithery viola of Mabel Wong lends an occasional turn-of-the-century salon feel to the proceedings. The only really embarrassing moments occur when Budd – whose voice sounds like an unfortunate cross between Garrison Keillor and Kermit the Frog – reads his own poetry. Skip those tracks and you'll be fine.