Friday, August 21, 2009

Jack Grace 1: The Martini Cowboy

Don’t be fooled by the song titles, nor by the headgear: this is not a straight country album. To pigeonhole it so would do a grave injustice to the wide variety of musical styles encompassed within.
The Martini Cowboy runs the gamut from blues to swing to jazz, shaken and stirred with a smooth finish. “Try Not To Cry” has a near-bossa nova feel, and there are echoes of Louis Armstrong in “Sugar Bear” (though truth be told, the live version kicks the album track’s butt). “Spike Down” is a blazing stomper any bluesman would be proud to cover. If you’re looking for a chaser, the “Sapphire Martini” interludes more than satisfy.
Of course, those in the mood for classic country will feel right at home with “What I Drink And Who I Meet At The Track”. Jack Grace is a man who’s shared stages and bills with the likes of Merle Haggard, the Oak Ridge Boys and Junior Brown (as well as Jerry Lee Lewis and Norah Jones), so he’s definitely got his feet planted in a certain tradition. After all, without songs about drinkin’ and love lost or found, what is country music about?
That tradition comes through with songs like “Rotary Phone” and the defiant acknowledgement of sides one and two in the CD booklet. His voice has a pleasing rumble and twang, with clever turns of phrase and sweet decorations from a pedal steel guitar played by the late, great Drew Glackin. The whole band is tight, anchored by Daria Grace’s solid bass work and her pristine harmonies wafting through just right. Each of the songs are distinct and catchy, shot through with a distinctly New York City attitude. Downtown is generally where you can catch him, but in addition to his regular residencies at the Rodeo Bar and Barbe’s in Brooklyn, he’s also huge in Ireland.
Jack Grace is a true original who exudes absolute joy in what he does. And he still would have been a better choice for Walk The Line than that Phoenix character.

Jack Grace Band The Martini Cowboy (2006)—

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