The Austin Chronicle

Review: Jon Dee Graham, Only Dead for a Little While

Waitsian universality rattles and rumbles similar to his ’97 debut

By Raoul Hernandez, December 1, 2023, Music

Crucial new oral history A Curious Mix of People: The Underground Scene of '90s Austin grids dominant pre-millennial culture: homegrown DIY and punk. Jon Dee Graham and his ilk rioting at Raul's seeded that upheaval in the late Seventies and Eighties before transitioning to statesmen of song during the Clinton era. Now that DIY digitalism rules globally, Graham's raw Only Dead for a Little While growls alternative somehow, as if hardscrabble Texan root music (blues, rock, country) reverts underground while artificial intelligence storms terra firma like climate change. Evoking 1997 solo debut Escape From Monster Island, a masterwork of Lone Star storytelling, Only Dead for a Little While rattles and rumbles a similar Waitsian universality. "When the first monkey fell out of the chattering tree/ Picked himself up off his hands-n-knees/ And his tail fell off just as pretty as you please," documents opener "Where It All Went Wrong," a mortal snarl prepping LP crucible "See You by the Fire." Per label Strolling Bones' YouTube electronic press kit, the latter originates from a wintry forest dream where Graham's heat-seeking posse comprises passed friends. Following 2018's postshow cardiac flatline then suffering a stroke pandemically, JDG rebirths yet again in closers "Death Ain't Got No Mercy," "Lazarus," and "Lost in the Flood." Eternal.

Jon Dee Graham

Only Dead for a Little While (Strolling Bones)

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