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Reviews - Gabriel Gordon - BlogCritics

The recent singer-songwriter revival has brought us some great new voices (David Gray, Sarah Harmer) and some people that should go back to Sensitive New Age Guys School (John Mayer, are you listening?) Now comes Gabriel Gordon into the great adult-alternative coffeehouse, having spent the last few years playing guitar for and touring with 80s alterna-folk doyenne Natalie Merchant. Gypsy Living, though, is a surprisingly accomplished album that distinguishes itself from other albums of this genre.

Gordon is the son of a blues musician and learned to play guitar by listening to Hendrix. Yet his sound seems more neo-soul than blues, more Josh Joplin than Jimi. But you could spend the entire album playing spot-the-influence. “Watch The Sky” is a tight, fluid, hook-laden song that is reminiscent of Al Green (in part because of Deron Johnson’s fine organ work). On "We’re Moving" you’d think he was channeling the aforementioned John Mayer, but Gordon’s superb understated voice can support the melody (where Mayer often sounds reedy). Then there’s "Time To Get Away," with a driving beat and a sound reminiscent of Maktub, only with a lower-octave Reggie Watts and less funk. Yet, for all the influence-bouncing, the record holds together extremely well – a credit not only to the strong backing musicians and the slick co-production of Steve Refling but also to Gordon’s ability to stay the middle course with his voice and songwriting. This isn’t confessional music, but it is honest emotion served with a pleasant smile a commitment to service.

This record does have problems. He lets his musical talent overwhelm a few songs, he doesn't keep his focus tight at points, and the third act is weak. The final song on the record, "Home," is such a killer ballad that it makes up for the weak and loose feel of the last third of the CD.

On the whole, a lot of hooks, a lot of talent, a lot of promise. This is a surprisingly strong, mature album that is honest and passionate without sounding sugary. This is where the line about "potential" and "with a little soul/experience/panache/nutmeg" goes in typical “newer” artist reviews, but that is a disservice to the work he's already accomplished. Gypsy Living is filled with flawed gems, but big, brilliant gems nonetheless.

- Dylan Wilbanks

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