Gavin DeGraw - Chariot
Gavin DeGraw, a twenty six year old singer/songwriter/pianist and guitarist from New York. New York is famous for producing music that is grittier and more unique than the rest of America and this is a fine example of that. DeGraw's band alone consists of guitarist Micheal Ward of the Wallflowers, Joey Waronker of Beck and R.E.M on drums and Degraw's old time pal Alvin Moody on bass, just by reading this, before I even listen to the CD I expect an eclectic array of songs drawn from such experienced musicians from such varying backgrounds.
'Follow Through' is a pretty weak start to the CD, it's not what I would have expected from a man who has sold 1,000,000 copies of this record alone, it's a fairly typical guitar driven pop rock, the lyrics are fairly drawn out and simple, its simple and crisp, but it's missing the versatility of the rest of the album. Such as title track 'Chariot', this song shows influences from jazz and pop. Miles Davis comes to mind mixed with the upbeat sound of Billy Joel, the piano in this song really does give it the kick that was needed, it's a good song, it's the type of song you could love and leave on the radio, and it's a song you and your whole family could appreciate.
Track three 'Just Friends' is a bit of a sappy affair, fully piano driven, bland lyrics, but this is the unlikely track that showcases DeGraw's vocal ability, his range is very impressive. To see him carry this off live would likely result in a truly moving performance. '[Nice to meet you] Anyway' is a bit of a letdown after the vocal dexterity of the previous track. It has no real feeling behind it unlike the previous two tracks, the lyrical content is also fairly dull, it's all about DeGraw's need for love, which is all good and well, but so far all the songs have been about this. Lyrics like "Dreaming of my true love" repeating throughout the song do make it drag on.
'Chemical Party' is a sudden change of pace, his voice drops to gravely tones of Bob Dylan, it's much more guitar driven, which gives this song its edge. It has a slight country influence in it discernable from the slight southern style twanging of the guitars; the change in lyrical content is also a welcome one. This is not one of the best songs on the album but it's a nice change to shake things up in the middle of the record.
'Belief' is another piano driven ballad, it's trying too hard, with lyrics such as 'In the shape of your mouth, In the form your body, With the wrath of a God, Oh, you stood by me' its thoroughly pathetic and weepy, it seems plain to me that DeGraw is capable of much more.
'Crush' is very similar to 'Follow Through', although the song structure is different, slightly heavier guitars in the intro, this doesn't help the case that DeGraw is wasting his talents on not exploring his music properly, had this song been graced with a heavier bass line it could've been a much better song. He nails the vocals every time, but the music itself needs work.
'I Don't Want To Be' is the Gavin DeGraw song you've heard even if you don't know who he is, yes, it is the theme song to One Tree Hill, but you can see why. DeGraw comes into his own in this song, the sing along empowering chorus is exactly what his previous few song have been missing. He addresses living in a fake world brilliantly, his lyrics are much more intelligent than elsewhere found on this album, this is the direction he needs to head in, and it has the potential to be great. It has the crunchy guitars, great percussion and a brilliant bass line, lastly his stunning voice beautifully showcased, is timeless and ageless.
To follow the previous song would be very hard, but 'Meaning' does showcase his voice once more, it is almost tarnished by the sickly sweet guitar work and lyrics, but his voice has that jazzy old time quality that no performers these days, and especially not ones as young as twenty six, possess. There is something truly special here. 'More Than Anyone' is another jazz ballad, it reminds me of Neil Young's early work. It's a better ballad than the others that appear on this record, mainly because it is much more stripped down to the bare minimum instrumentally, and with this creates a very mellow effect throughout the song. You can see DeGraw performing this in any tiny coffee house across the world and garnering the respect of everyone there. This follows through on 'Over Rated' which is more guitar driven and builds up to be a more forceful guitar rock tune, like John Mayer but if only he were more original and had a more distinctive vocal range. Not the strongest track on the record, but plausible. The final track 'Get Lost' ends the album on DeGraw pursuing the deeper aspects of his voice once more, it's the perfect mix of rock, pop and jazz, it's a thoroughly vocally driven affair but that's just how it should be, with a voice like this. If DeGraw could pull off this entire record acapella if he wanted to, and that's no mean feat.
It is incredibly hard to rate this album as you get the idea that live this would be stunning, yet you feel Degraw hasn't reached his full potential here. It's a stunning debut regardless, he cites Ray Charles and Sam Cooke as influences and it's completely plausible in this case. I'd say to buy this record you'd have to be fairly open minded; it is eclectic and different to what you hear on the radio every day. People like Gavin DeGraw deserve to be huge; this is what pop music should be, filled with raw talent and emotion.