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Jon Dee Graham
Freedom Records

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 cliched.

-Tracy M. Rogers

Track List:
1. Jubilee
2. Swept Away
3. Something Wonderful
4. Amsterdam
5. O Dearest One
6. Holes
7. Bonaparte
8. Rosewood
9. WCD
10. Tie a Knot
11. Remain
12. Beloved Garden

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