Free follows Gavin DeGraw's eponymous second album by less than a year -- a quick turnaround by any standard, but its swiftness is shocking considering that it took him half a decade to deliver a follow-up to his 2003 debut, Chariot. Free feels as if it were recorded quickly: it weighs in at a mere nine songs, including a reworking of the previous album's "Young Love" and a cover of Chris Whitley's "Indian Summer," bringing the total of new tunes to an EP-length seven songs, every one given a treatment that's decidedly looser and smaller in scale than the slick, overworked Gavin DeGraw. Such intimacy suits DeGraw's new songs, which tend to be ruminative, but this subdued setting also shows the seams in his writing and performance, whether it's his adoption of a mush-mouthed, bluesy growl for "Indian Summer" or how he stitches together clichés and naiveté on the spartan closer, "Why Do the Men Stray." But between these two bookends is the most consistent music DeGraw has yet made -- yes, he could use at least one hook as big as "I Don't Wanna Be," but Free manages to flow easily and warmly, something that couldn't quite be said of the blue-eyed soul bluster of his first two albums.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine