Gavin DeGraw – Chariot

Gavin DeGraw is a true romantic. His piano driven acoustic rock music hums of it and so do his lyrics. He can take gut wrenching relationships and construct beautiful songs chock full of proposition and meaning. His songs are short stories of zeal and realism. DeGraw is the type of singer-songwriter that would captivate and charm on a rainy weekday night at the small corner coffee shop down town.

Chariot is an album that borders on perfection within the music. It almost sounds too flawless. DeGraw is pure talent on the keys, and he provides pulsing piano tunes that fill the sound and lead the way. A studio band that unquestionably holds some nice credentials backs DeGraw here. Joey Waronker, of Beck and R.E.M. fame, drums out the slow and lifting beats, playing the guitars on the album is Michael Ward of the Wallflowers, and rounding out the studio band is longtime buddy, bassist Alvin Moody. I’m not sure how I feel about studio bands; they are used way more than you would think. I do appreciate and value how DeGraw doesn’t hide the fact they he is indeed joined by one. His piano and keyboard construction is played so well it could undeniably stand on its own feet. With the studio band supporting him, it just makes the music sound so much healthier and full. It doesn’t dominate or overpower DeGraw’s talents, it modestly backs it.

DeGraw’s lyrics are full of life and tales of love that he calmly bares to his audience. His vocals hold a rasping blues feel to them that embodies the essence and substance behind his lyrics. The track “Meaning” displays the type of affectionate words of love DeGraw has scribbled down in Chariot; “Hail to the light that my baby watches me / In the darkness of the window / I can hardly get to sleep / Wish for the hour that / The nighttime soon shall pass / And the morning dew will bring us / To a day our souls can last / Love has a reason“.

At times DeGraw can get very formal and cliché with his lyrics like in the song “Just Friends;” (“Girl, your body fits me like a glove / And you shower me with words of love”). In most cases, this would take away from an album but the vocals are sung with such sincerity that cliché becomes honesty. The track that is most upbeat and bubbly is definitely a song people will identify with; “I Don’t Want To Be.” A song heard by tons of teen drama fans every Wednesday night on the WB’s One Tree Hill.

It will be interesting to see where this album will take DeGraw. He definitely possesses the musical talent to make things happen. Critics will attack DeGraw for at times having such mundane lyrics, but he has a certain ardor in his vocals and piano playing that separates hims from watered down pop singer/songwriters of the world like John Mayer and Jason Mraz. DeGraw has a sense of originality and freshness and his voice simply carries him. Backed by the prominent J Records and a huge hometown New York City following, as well as the theme song for a hit TV teen drama, DeGraw will certainly have the help of friends. I truly believe DeGraw is headed to a very bright future in the music industry.

(J Records)