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Richard McGraw

  • Her Sacred Status, Her Militant Needs
  • Song And Void Vol 1

  • Album Reviews |

    Richard McGraw

    Her Sacred Status My Militant Needs 6 ( 2001 )
    Judas Disguise / Leaving You Forever / Plans To Escape My Programmed Heart / Sidetracked / A Poem-Confession / The Currency Of Labour & Demand / These Wholes In My Body On South Street / Newburgh / Following Love / Her Sacred Status... / The Golden Crucifix Vs. The Weight Complexity / In My Heart / The Wealth Of My Position / No More / Prophet Song / Sympathy For The Pervert

    If you happen to be a new male singer songwriter and solo performer, it's difficult to get your music heard these days, unless you happen to be Sting, or somebody. Thankfully, Richard McGraw isn't Sting. What is he then? Well, he's of the folk school, but rather more the Leonard Cohen school of folk than anything strictly traditional. Information about Richard McGraw can be found on his official web-site here. You can listen to selected tracks from this album at CD Baby. You could even buy it at the same time, if you liked. But before all of that, let's give you something a bit more to go on, something to get your teeth into, so to speak. The album is loosely grouped into four parts sub-titled 'Intro', 'Various Secular Struggles', 'More Facts' and 'Conclusion'. This thematic structure doesn't at all interfere with the listening enjoyment. The album works on several levels, actually. On the one hand we have very melodic playing and carefully put together backing tracks with the likes of opening 'Judas Disguise' for example. The bass sounds good, the strings and harmonies are attention to detail, a rich musical backing with the sound of an acoustic guitar and a vunerable, but still strong, singing voice surrounding the music. Another way this album works is through paying absolute attention to the lyrics, all of which are intelligently poetic and well worth paying attention to. The second song here, 'Leaving You Forever' is absolutely heart-breaking - a lone violin plays in the background whilst Richard McGraw sings ( beautifully ) a selection of beautifully poetic lyrics in that clear, strong but still vunerable voice of his. I should make clear this singing voice isn't akin to Leonard Cohen's, in case you wondering about the comparison I made at the start of this review! Just a certain intelligence in the music and lyrical matter, a certain air about it all. Listening to 'Plans To Escape My Programmed Heart' makes you wonder a little though. The lead vocals apart, this could have come straight from Cohens 'Songs From A Room' album, and that absolutely is a compliment, this is a truly lovely, short song.

    'Various Secular Struggles' opens with 'Sidetracked' and for now the embellishments in the way of violin, bass etc disappear to push the lyrics to the fore. 'A Poem/Confession' is well worth listening to for it's every word, 'The Currency Of Labour And Demand' another piece of heartbreaking beauty in the vocal department - it tugs at your heart strings and the addition of faint accordian sounds is a nice touch. 'More Facts' opens with 'These Wholes In My Body On South Street' and again, the attention to detail in the musical backing is a thing to behold. I'm speaking of 'knowing' where to add the right embellishments, in the right places - and not to overdo anything. He never does, thankfully. The sound is fairly pared back throughout the record, but as i've been saying - the violins, bass etc really do make your ears stand up. Beautifully recorded music, this. Moving through the tracks that make up the six song 'More Facts', even though all of the songs are relatively short suddenly becomes too much of a good thing. What I mean by that statement is that he starts to repeat himself, not lyrically but certainly with the sound of the record. Maybe it's just I don't care too much for 'Following Love' in particular? I didn't get the same feeling listening to that, it seemed a little colder in feel and atmosphere - just a personal feeling of mine. This is a very personal sort of a record, actually - very up close and warm. 'The Wealth Of My Position' sees Richard set his vocals to a Piano backing, which works very well to break up the sound of the record at this point. 'No More' has some nice acoustic guitar playing, 'Prophet Song' and the very short but utterly fascinating 'Sympathy For The Pervert' closing the record. An enjoyable record too, an admirable record in the current music business. It deserves to be heard by many more people than it almost certainly has been. Whilst the second half of the album doesn't maintain the quality of the first half in terms of great tunes - there is still more than enough here to get quietly impressed and excited about.

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    top of page Song And Void, Vol 1 7
    Butter Hill / Natasha in Highschool / Find Me Then / Death is Not Peace / St. Anthony / To Keep You Safe / The Things That Devils Bring / Hopefully / The Masses and the Craftsmen / Are You Still / Navy Blue / The Many / Where Men Go

    Music is a strange thing at the moment. With every year that passes, there's more music made and it becomes more and more difficult to assimilate it all. Well, we needn't bother and nobody generally does. There's too much music. A glance at either the top 40 singles or album charts is fairly disturbing, though. If so much music is being made, where's the good stuff? At any one time, I might decide there's two or three 'top 40' albums worth having. Albums 41 through to 100 often consists of clones of the top 40 albums, or sometimes, worthy stuff that only appears in the charts for just a couple of weeks. Where is all the good new music? Why must the public assume if something is unknown, it can't be any good? We all know the good stuff doesn't automatically rise to the top, we accept some bands have bigger marketing pushes. There seems to be an assumption however that a great songwriter must make some kind of impact somewhere, so if we haven't heard of said songwriter, why take the risk and investigate? Too much rubbish produced you see, so people naturally take safe routes and stick to what they know. Richard McGraw doesn't reinvent the wheel, that's not required anyway. He 'just' writes great songs. Still, when great songs are in short supply, he's something of a rare commodity. How many other guys are out there writing great stuff we may never hear? Well, we'll never know, will we?

    You know, I've heard of 'Sufjan Stevens' who makes good records. Have I heard of this Richard McGraw geezer? Where's his Rolling Stone review? So and and so forth and i'm labouring this point for a reason. It's terrific as a record reviewer when you receive an album through the post that's actually good and surprises you. I reviewed the first McGraw album, here's the second, is it any good? Short answer is yes, but I guess you may require further explanation. I know the public are tough and jaded these days. Why does Richard McGraw deserve your hard earned cash? Well, I shall attempt to explain. Packaging. The album arrives in a lovely cardboard sleeve with a proper, well printed thick lyrics booklet. The package looks like some care has gone into it and immediately that's attractive. Contents within? Put the CD into the player, hit play. A slow, mournful song comes out with hints of a country influence. Hmmm. Still, what's this? These lyrics are absolutely excellent. Still, what's this? Repeated plays of this slow, powerful tune results in 'Butter Hill' sinking into your soul and Mr McGraw has scored point 1. Open your album on a strong note. The music here and across the album as a whole is more or less how you'd expect a singer/songwriter LP to be, it's based around Richard McGraw and the various instruments he plays. The arrangements are never overly fussy and the album retains a natural sound. Yet, it delights me that when a handclap or a bass line pops up to join Richard and always in exactly the right place. You know, you're listening away thinking, 'wouldn't it be great if a little bass line pops up here' and then it does! Ah, 'St Anthony' is such a great little tune.

    Length, the album lasts exactly the right length given the fact there's a lot to digest in terms of lyrics and so forth. If the album was any longer than it was, we'd be risking taking away from the overall effect rather than adding to it. That's a lesson old Sufjan could learn, actually. Still, I've mentioned a couple of tunes as highlights, saving my favourite highlight until now, 'Natasha In High School'. 'Natasha In High School' is pure pop gold. The way it opens is, and I hate to use such phrases because they are more or less meaningless, 'mccartney-esque'. The lyric is witty and funny, rhyming panties with pantries and much more besides. There's a 'la, la, la section', too. You can't go wrong with it, really. I need to finish the review now, because otherwise this review won't be exactly the right length and i'll be describing song after song. In summary then? It's a quality record, buy it today and be rewarded with real and lasting listening pleasure.

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    top of page this page last updated 28/06/08

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