Jon Dee Graham

New West Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


What would you get if you crossed Garth Brooks with Tom Waits?

Yup, I'm not sure, either. But I think that Jon Dee Graham might be the closest thing we have to an answer, as his most recent album Summerland proves. It's an interesting mix of the beauty of country music with a rawer, "from the street" sound to Graham's vocals. Scared? Don't be; the mixture is wonderfully refreshing.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

With a solid backing group and a parade of guests (including vocalist Kacy Crowley), Graham lays down 12 tracks of wonderfully crafted tunes that is sure to send the country world into a state of confusion. Mixed in with the traditional pedal steel guitar is the grit of L.A. alternative music - and for that, the scene may never be the same again... thank God.

From the outset of tracks like "A Place In The Shade" and "Big Sweet Life," you can tell that Graham isn't the typical "Okie from Muskogee". His own unique voice and style of attacking the music brings about a freshness to the genre that hasn't been heard in a long time. Songs like "Half The Time," "Butterfly Wing" and "God's Perfect Love" all reflect this new style at its most effective.

Don't be surprised if you don't like it on the first listen; while I loved Summerland from the first listen, I'll freely admit this is a sound and style that one has to get used to. I loaned this disc to a friend of mine who is big into country music. One hour later, she handed it back to me and said, "Eew." I guess if you're a fan of the more traditional style of country (meaning pre-Garth), you might have a harder time adapting to this disc.

The only weakness I can find on Summerland is that Graham isn't always able to keep my attention focused on the music. Sure, this is a pretty album, but by the time songs like "Threads" and "Lucky Moon" kick in, I found myself becoming easily distracted, and the songs faded into just background music too quickly. Still, if my life needed background music, this is as good any.

Summerland is a disc from an artist whose time has not yet come - only because Graham is so far ahead of his time. If he has the stamina to keep pressing on with this unique style of alternative country, I have no doubt that he'll soon be revered as a superstar instead of a potential rebel ready to upset the apple cart. My advice: go ahead and give it a push.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of New West Records, and is used for informational purposes only.