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Music Review: Jon Dee Graham – Garage Sale

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Jon Dee Graham is one of those artists who has produced consistently excellent music for decades but has usually slid under the commercial radar. He has released seven solo albums as well as having been a member of The Skunks and The True Believers. Graham has also been a three-time inductee into the Austin Music Awards Hall Of Fame (as a solo artist and member of these two bands).

During early 2012, he took part in the group project, At Least We Have Each Other by The Hobart Brothers and Lil’ Sis Hobart, which also featured Freedy Johnston and Susan Cowsill. He was supposed to be on hiatus but received a gift of some studio time from friends. That gift has resulted in the recording of his eighth studio album, Garage Sale which will be released July 17 on Freedom Records.

Garage Sale may have been pieced together over time but it represents his style and sound, which includes a gravelly Tom Waits-type vocal that may take some getting used to. But the center of the album remains his lyrical imagery and ability to tell a story. The music can rock at times and be mellow and gentle at others, but the pictures he paints with his words are some of the best in the business.

The album’s first track, “Unafraid,” is what Graham says is “the mission statement” for the release. Keyboards and loud drums provide the foundation as his smoky voice sings, “I’ve pulled the thorn from the paw of the lion/I’ve snatched the fang from the jaw of the snake.” With those words, he begins his musical journey of exploration which encompasses personal experiences and ruminations of the world around him.

“Just Like That” is a lament that time cannot stand still. “The perfect moments, they come and go/Like days and weeks and months they go/No matter how you hold on/You think you know.” It is a song that speaks to anyone who has started to get older and is reflecting upon the high points of life as mortality begins to close in.

Graham played most of the instruments on the album but the guitar remains his instrument of choice. He has progressed as a guitar player and his axe work is one of the highlights of the album.

Jon Dee Graham remains an undiscovered treasure outside of his native Texas. Garage Sale is a fine introduction to one of the Southwest’s best singer/songwriters.

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