Grey Reverend delivers an album rich in artistry and humanness.
Grey Reverend toured with the Cinematic Orchestra a few years back and thus it’s fitting that this release should arrive on Cinematic mainman Jason Swinscoe’s Motion Audio label. The good Reverend has released albums in the past, dating all the way back to 2003, but his visibility will doubtless be upped a scintilla with Of the Days. Filled with nine mellower-than-mellow tracks that call to mind Jose Gonzalez's In Our Nature the album reveals its full beauty via multiple listens -- it's a recording for the patient and deep listener, not the casual ear expecting a quick hook and shaking grooves.
For the most part it works. The opening "Altruistic Holiday", with its gentle guitar figures and gorgeous and subtle vocal lines, sets the tone for the rest of the record where we find light in the darkness and darkness in the light. "Forsake" is a prime example, equal parts melancholy and uplifting spirits as it features some of the artist's quintessential heartfelt vocals and deceptively understated guitar lines -- by that point in the album, you begin to realize how inseparable the two are. A different guitarist might overplay, a different singer might overemote, a different artist would swing out with obvious statements and less enigmatic lyrics. Instead Grey Reverend (real name: L.D. Brown) weaves them together in seamless fashion so that the listener is stunned by the artistry and moved by the humanness of it.
The solo guitar piece "Little Eli" demonstrates Brown's prowess on his instrument and his sense of diversity; it should be noted that his 2003 release, Ipso-Facto, was a solo guitar work, a further demonstration of his love for his craft. It's likely that just as many fans will pick up on Brown's singing as well as his playing, and that's a good thing.
A casual listener might find the slow unfolding of Of the Days off-putting and abandon hope after a first listen -- there's a uniformity running from end to end that does at first seem monochromatic, but those repeat listens reveal all the shades and diverse hues that Brown has gently measured and mixed into each of the songs and the piece as a whole. Listen to the breathtaking "The Box" several times in a row or the equally grand "Begging to Borrow" in the same way, and you begin to hear the keen details revealing themselves not only to the listener, but to the artist as well. There is, of course, the closing "Road Less Traveled", a fine resolution to the journey that Brown has taken us on -- it's even something that feels very much like uplift and rich, bathing light.
It will be interesting to see how this career unfolds, how Grey Reverend is embraced by the public, and how he hones and refines his musical vision on future outings. It's refreshing to hear songs as charismatic as these from an artist wrapped in a sense of mystique with a voice that is hard to forget. Of the Days is a fine record from a fine new voice. Embrace it.