John DeGrazio,
(WaterSound, 2001)

John DeGrazio's former band, Burlap to Cashmere, was one of the more recent bands to break out of the Christian-music ghetto, in their case by melding upbeat Mediterranean rhythms and nontraditional instruments with solid guitar rock and subtle religious themes, and forsaking the church circuit for venues like New York City's Bitter End. Although DeGrazio's first solo release, Revolution, demonstrates musical and lyrical potential, he still has a long way to go before he can match Burlap's innovation and popular appeal.

DeGrazio's guitar playing is quite good, and his smooth, laid-back style makes for pleasant listening, particularly when paired with his supple yet slightly growly baritone, which would do justice to any top-40 alterna-rock band. However, without Burlap's fresh, energetic backup instrumentation, there's not a lot here to distinguish DeGrazio from the rest of the cute-boy-with-guitar pack. Although DeGrazio keeps the album's tempo moving by mixing slow, mellow songs with upbeat, rockier numbers, the tunes begin to develop a certain sameness by the end of the album.

Lyrically, DeGrazio is better than at least half of what's on the radio right now, and he's honed his songwriting chops with hits on the Christian charts for other artists; but there's still not quite enough depth in Revolution to satisfy discriminating fans of contemporary singer-songwriters. He has the unfortunate tendency to yoke a vibrant line or an interesting thought to a hoary cliche, and on occasion displays the inclination, which I think is best exemplified by some of Jewel's songs, to try to make the obvious sound profound. In short, although listening to Revolution was an enjoyable experience, neither the music nor the lyrics stuck with me after I took the CD out and put something else in.

Revolution might be a good gift for the Matchbox20 or Dave Matthews fan on your list, but if your taste runs to weightier stuff, I'd suggest looking elsewhere. Perhaps when DeGrazio comes out with a new album in a year or two, I'll give him another chance.

[ by Erin Bush ]
Rambles: 30 December 2001