Jon Dee Graham

Record Review

Phases and Stages

Jon Dee Graham

Hooray for the Moon (New West) Jon Dee Graham has seen it all, all he wants to see at least, enough to fill Hooray for the Moon with 11 tender-hearted ballads and soul-searching rock. If his first solo album, 1997's Escape From Monster Island, bookended his second, '99's Summerland, his third effort slots neatly between the two. Neither as painfully introspective as Escape, nor as pensive as Summerland, Hooray for the Moon carries its substantial weight of provocative lyrics and muscular melodies on the back of Graham's journeyman guitar work. Opening track "One Moment" is the "Lucky Moon" of Hooray, another article of faith from True Believers days (and turned to gold by Patty Smyth). Graham's sly wit runs throughout the LP (note the wryly titled "The Restraining Order Song"), but is never more evident than in the Tom Waits cover, "Down in the Hole," skewering the inevitable comparison between his and Waits' vocal style by delivering a dead-on interpretation. He also covers "Volver," the beautiful Spanish lyrics wistfully framed by Graham's rough, weary voice, and Little Joe's velvet harmonies. But Graham is most comfortable as a composer. He weaves the golden threads of life's rich, taut experience through material like "The Huisache Tree," "I Go Too," "Something Moves," and "Home"; he can do Beatlesesque ("Waiting for a Sign") as easily as sentimental ("Tamale House #1"). Still, when Graham explodes, as he does on "Laredo (Small Dark Something)," co-written with bandmates Mike Hardwick and Mark Andes, he lands square on quintessential Texas songwriter turf, like Doug Sahm and Townes Van Zandt, and that's no mean feat. When the smoke clears, Tom Waits should cover "One Moment to Another" before Patty Smyth gets "Home." (Jon Dee Graham's release party for HFTM is Friday, Jan. 18, at the Continental Club.)

****

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