[23 June 2008]
Graham MacRae takes a refreshingly unvarnished approach to his eponymous debut. The troubadour’s stripped-down, primarily acoustic folk tunes jibe musically with the sounds put forth by artists like Iron & Wine or Elliott Smith. Yet, MacRae’s unwillingness to blunt any of his rougher edges distinguish his sound; at times drums, guitars or even MacRae’s vocals cut through otherwise pastoral textures with a force that is surprising yet ultimately breathes fresh life into what might otherwise be a relatively typical singer-songwriter record. Case in point: on the tune “Forty Winks”, MacRae turns a lover’s lullaby into a creative vocal exercise, making the most of every syllable and emphasizing them to an unusual yet inventive degree. Other tracks that best indicate MacRae’s technique include “Future Days” and “Things Couldn’t Be Better.” And, just because MacRae can sound a little more gruff or bold than the average folkie doesn’t preclude him from crafting something as lilting and gorgeous as the instrumental “Wedding Wind”, which splits the album beautifully. The album is well-constructed, each song a bit different yet retaining enough common characteristics to be a complimentary part. On “Voice and Guitar”, MacRae sings of an artist who will “impact” a number of years with just those instruments; while MacRae fleshes his album out with a few other sounds, he might well be prophesying his own effect. He is an artist who sounds sure to have an impact on those who experience his work.