Gavin DeGraw Lets Loose With Stripped-Down LP, Free

Gavin DeGraw, Free
One of the many undeniable appeals of New York singer/songwriter Gavin DeGraw is his sultry, soulful voice, layered with a raw poignancy and surprising sincerity, that’s effortlessly wound around every melody to seep through his lips.  The J Records superstar has been on a decidedly major-label track since his debut release Chariot in 2003, and made the choice to scale back the production on his latest LP, Free.  DeGraw told Billboard,

“I just wanted to make a legitimate record, an artist’s record for an artist’s fans.  I didn’t want to saturate the tracks with overdubs and flying guitars and unicorns and shit. I wanted to keep everything out of the way and allow the songs to really be about what the songs are fundamentally, which is music and lyrics.””

The result is a ten-song deep journey into DeGraw’s soul that may not find a place on the charts immediately, but will definitely satiate even the pickiest of fan pallets.

Billboard.com wrote,

“While making “Free” DeGraw reached back into his catalog to include early compositions such as “Dancing Shoes” and “Glass,” which have not been released but have become fan favorites through his live shows. He also finished a couple of songs, “Mountains to Move” and “Stay,” in the studio, [and] covered the late Chris Whitley’s “Indian Summer” as the album’s opening track.”

The combination of old material and newly reconstructed studio tracks suits DeGraw perfectly, and certainly lends to his credibility as a songwriter.

Free begins with a cover of the late Chris Whitley’s “Indian Summer,” a song that Entertainment Weekly called, “slow-burning.” There’s definite passion in DeGraw’s vocal that carries magnificently to the other nine tracks.  The title track follows with heartfelt lyrics like, “I am heartbreak and romance/the feather and the stone/I feel crowded/and alone/and I wanna be free…” His voice is pristine on Free but there’s still a sexy edge that leaves you wanting more.

The unfortunate draw-back to Free is the lack of tempo change.  Song after song is undeniably passionate and from the heart, but there’s little excitement in the arrangements, save a few shining moments on, “Lover Be Strong.”

DeGraw did manage to save an old gem for this record that’s reminiscent of Mark Cohen’s, “Walkin’ In Memphis.”  “Dancing Shoes” begins with a delicate piano and escalates into one of the only piercing hooks on the record.

While this may not be an official follow-up to hi 2008 release, Gavin DeGraw has proven his staying power with Free.  The label surprisingly supported it, critics seem confused by it, but fans love it, and in a world without frills that’s all that matters.  DeGraw’s brooding melodies and soulful expressiveness have satiated pop/rock appetites with for years, and Free is no exception.  A little old school, a dash of new, and heaping spoonful of authenticity makes this relaxed-fit album the perfect addition to his catalog.

If you’re into smooth melodies and passionate lyrics, make sure you check out this album, and please, do yourself a favor and give it more than just one listen.  Free is definitely worth it.

  

Peter Cincotti: East of Angel Town

Young pianist and singer/songwriter Peter Cincotti came off as a young Harry Connick, Jr. with his crooner delivery on his self-titled debut a few years back. So it may come as a shock when you hear his new album of all original material, East of Angel Town. That’s because this is a pop/rock album through and through, and Cincotti has obviously been hiding behind some really impressive songwriting ability. But this project was also aided by an all-star team of producers including David Foster, Humberto Garcia and Jochem van der Saag, all of whom contributed to making this album sound larger than life. All of that also makes Cincotti’s newfound pop sensibility a nice breath of fresh air, and while the closest comparison to the songs on East of Angel Town might be Gavin DeGraw, make no mistake about the fact that Peter Cincotti has his own artistry and he wears it well. Among a pretty stellar batch of songs, the standouts are the hard-driving “Be Careful” and “Love is Gone,” the bluesy “Another Falling Star” and “Witches Brew” and the made-for-radio pop gem, “Man on a Mission.” (LABEL: Warner Bros.)

Peter Cincotti MySpace Page

  

Eric Hutchinson: Sounds Like This

Sometimes a record company, you know, steps in it. Because breaking new artists these days has become practically foreign to major labels, it sometimes takes a stroke of luck, or in the case of pop singer and songwriter Eric Hutchinson, the stroke of a buddy’s computer keyboard. Hutchinson, whose infectious, R&B-laced pop runs in the same musical circles as Gavin DeGraw and Maroon 5, was signed to Maverick Records before parent company Warner Brothers closed Maverick’s doors, leaving this talented dude with a sparkling product and no label to pimp it. But not to worry, he kept touring and then found overnight success when a high school buddy e-mailed a link to Eric’s music to celebrity gossip dude Perez Hilton. Just like that, Hutchinson went from no-name to peaking at #5 on the iTunes album chart, making him the highest charting unsigned act in the digital age. It’s no fluke, either. Sounds Like This, originally released on Hutchinson’s aptly titled Let’s Break Records, is just dripping with hooks, especially on the incredibly upbeat and soulful “You Don’t Have to Believe Me” and on “Rock & Roll,” the kind of track Jason Mraz wishes he could write. But even when Hutchinson brings down the volume, as he does on “Food Chain,” he can’t help but put you in a good mood. (Warner Bros./Let’s Break)

Eric Hutchinson MySpace Page

  

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