Jon Dee Graham's latest CD, FULL, is a rockin' affair
- full of blues riffs, anthemic rock, and a handful of tender folk
songs. Although lyrically unexceptional at times, FULL contains
many compelling observations on life and love, as well as commentaries
on the process of getting older.
The album's first two tracks - "Jubilee" and "Swept
Away" - show Graham's skill as a songwriter. The former is a
blues guitar rocker that finds Graham pondering the effects of age
and limited time that humans face on earth. "Time is thin, time
is quick/time should be ashamed/time should pack its shabby bag of
tricks and go away," he sings in his soulful, smoky baritone.
"Swept Away" is a much more enigmatic affair, a blues-rock
ballad about the desire to run away when times are tough, as well
as coming to terms with one's own mortality. "Swept Away"
finds Graham at his most poetic and most poignant, singing of wanting
to cross the piedras and never look back. "If you find my car
at a low water crossing/with the doors wide open and the keys still
inside/just say 'so long' don't say 'goodbye'/I was swept away,"
he croons at both the beginning and the end of the song.
The middle portion of FULL is a mixed bag. The lackluster,
somewhat repetitive "Something Wonderful" gives way to the
sublime folk-rock of "Amsterdam". The quintessential love-gone-wrong
anthem, "O Dearest One," is offset by the redundant, cliched
"Holes." The album then evens out a bit. "Bonaparte"
boasts a Cars-inspired melody and an arena rock feel, while
the jazzy blues of "Rosewood" tells the story of a doomed
love affair and also serves as a tribute to New Orleans. The wistful,
blues-oriented "WCD" harkens back to Graham's youth, while
"Tie a Knot" is an angry jazz meets hard rock song about
a ship whose passengers are of questionable origins.
The mellow pop-rock of "Remain" and the haunting pop-blues-rock
of "Beloved Garden" close the album. The former is the only
straightforward love song on the album featuring tender brushed drums,
floating acoustic guitar, and lilting pedal steel. The latter is perhaps
the most personal song on the album, containing allusions to the garden
of Eden and a failing romance. Though at times lyrically inscrutable,
"Beloved Garden" finds Graham cursing God while accepting
his own fate.
Possessing numerous musical highs and lows, FULL is a rather
schizophrenic affair - an album that shows both Graham's story-telling
prowess and his occasional tendency to descend into the ordinary and
-Tracy M. Rogers
2. Swept Away
3. Something Wonderful
5. O Dearest One
10. Tie a Knot
12. Beloved Garden
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