Rock and Reprise.net
There is a peak in the chorus of I'm Suspended that is every bit as high as the Colorado country Ali Grayson calls home and which when played loud is pure musical adrenaline rush. When played softly, though... oh, man. You can credit the bedrock of the song to one () who pushed the buttons--- and of course the talents within the band--- but the core is the tightly-textured voice of Grayson, one moment soft and warm and the next soaring with enough power and clarity to cut glass with a beveled edge. And I don't know why. Her voice doesn't seem extraordinary. She does not have an overly extended range nor does she excel in the vocal pyrotechnics which today seems the rage, yet when I hear her sing it stops me cold. She needs neither the range nor the pyrotechnics. She has something altogether different and missing in so many singers--- she has clarity of soul. No, not that soul. I mean , she sings from the heart. And when she pulls back and lets go, she strikes a chord.
Like on I'm Suspended. It steamrolls you with its majestic sound, the background a measured depth just short of wall-of-sound and individual instruments doled out in perfect recipe. On Reappearing Shadows, a reflective cry in the night, Grayson takes you into her past, if not yours, with unaffected voice and heart of soul. She borrows from the late fifties and early sixties' rock and gospel on Bricks and Babel Tar, the slow rocking 6/8 time signature perfection mixed with church choir aura. The chord she strikes on Suspended, though, covers an even larger territory. There is a rock side to her songwriting which reminds me vaguely of Sarah Borges, constantly pushing the boundaries of a song while relying on standard chord progressions just enough to keep you interested (Green Room, Climb Out, and Special Day). Of the three, Climb Out is easily the most accessible, having that sense of melody Pop fans are so used to, but Green Room and Special Day have their strengths, grabbing hold of the ears until you begin to appreciate how subtly different Grayson's songwriting really is and how the varied approaches give the album and not just the individual songs real life. If we accept that an album is a sentence and the songs words, sure, you could listen to them in a different order but it would not make as much sense.
One thing I find intriguing about Ali Grayson is that while she is a singer, she sings within context of a band. Strapped to the desk as I am, music for review backed far up the river, my ears have begun to hear subtleties previously unheard or maybe just discarded offhand, and what I hear from Grayson belongs in a band. No doubt she can perform solo and be successful, but there is something in her which thrives in a band setting. And trust me, there is a lot of outstanding thriving going on on Suspended.
I could go on about the album, but words only obscure the main points, which are that this album and these artists have created something very special. That ?special? may be a result of their Faith--- yes, Grayson and many if not all of the people involved are grounded in Faith--- or maybe it happened in the moment, the musical notes lining up like stars on a magical night. No matter. The result is what matters and the result here is outstanding.
An aside: When I first heard Fermer les Yuex, the soft French (?) ballad which ends the album, I bemoaned the fact that I could not understand the lyrics. I tossed that behind me about the third listen, neither caring about nor wanting to know the story behind the song. I prefer to listen in ignorance as Grayson's voice wrapped in just enough reverb floats over the top of hauntingly beautiful musical backdrop. Such is the power of her voice and phrasing. And her heart.
Frank O. Gutch Jr.
Supporting the Indies Since 1969