Josh Gracin

Redemption

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With Redemption, contemporary country singer/songwriter (and former American Idol contestant) Josh Gracin goes further than most when it comes to breaking the content barrier: the album contains a whopping 17 tracks. Gracin wrote or co-wrote all but one song here. He co-produced the record with his drummer, Kevin Murphy, and used his road band in the studio. This proves problematic in the end. Gracin kicks things off with a hard-rocking wall of highly compressed metallic guitars -- and the requisite banjo -- on "Different Kind of Crazy." Its lyrics are disturbing for their dangerpously unconscious misogyny. The protagonist accuses/brags on his "left-of-center baby" to the listener by saying: "There ain't nothing you haven't done, she ain't tried" and "I know that ain't the way my mama raised me." Alas, the madonna/whore complex is alive and well, tied inexorably to conservative ("right") political and religious stances -- apparently Gracin's "hero" was seduced by these charms (and his rebellion toward his mama?) and has no choice but to love her. The real question becomes as to whether she's his baby as he claims or he's hers? Musically, the rest of this -- and there's a lot -- is familiar contemporary country fare. The single "Long Way to Go" is a good choice; it's a love song with a shimmering B-3, acoustic guitars, Dobros, and big-sounding drums, with a chorus meant to grab listeners and not let go -- this track also gets a remix geared at the honky tonk's dancefloor. "Only When It Rains" is a duet with fellow Michigan native Shelagh Brown, who won the right to sing with Gracin via a competition (perhaps he knows how Simon Cowell feels after all), and is easily one of the best tunes here, an open, aching, honest love song. "Catastrophe" is a another rock & roller, and cops the riff from Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" in its verses. The power ballads, such as "Enough," with its baroque strings, work very well, as does "Let You Go," which pits stinging electric guitars against them. The bluesy "I Want to Make You Cry" has an R&B tinge that could potentially cross over. Lyrics aside, there isn't much wrong with Gracin's formula; though at over an hour in length, it could have been much shorter and tighter. Ultimately, Gracin is betting a lot on Redemption; each self-penned song reaches for a certain niche in the contemporary country genre, trying to cover all the bases programmers desire. A more judicious, forceful co-producer would have tempered that overreaching impulse. While the album will delight his fans, whether this kitchen-sink approach results in garnering new ones is indeed a gamble.

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