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Home in This Direction

Call this correcting an injustice. A few years ago, I wrote a glowing review of Greg Laswell's Through Toledo, at the end of the year even garnering it with the coveted Frank Gutch Jr. Album of the Year award for 2006. Derren Raser got wind of the review and sent me a copy of his album, King of I'll Tell You Next Week (produced by Laswell), which I liked but oddly never got around to reviewing (in print, at least). Well, Raser is not one to be put off and kept in touch, eventually sending me the pre-release MP3 file of last year's Home in This Direction album, which I, again, listened to and filed away. At the time, I remember thinking that it was nice but not rock enough (I had been partial to the real ?band? tracks on the King album) and I figured I would get back to it when things slowed down. Well, things didn't, but I did. Just now. Almost a year late. Are you seeing where this is heading?

Okay, I found the files. I pulled them up. I listened. What I heard was not at all what I heard when I listened months ago. It was a different album, I swear! Those ?nice? songs had somehow gained muscle, not in style but in substance. The melodies were clean, the lyrics always good and downright brilliant in places and the voice... Well, Raser has a soft texture and a way of phrasing which makes the songs even better than they already are, and they are plenty good. Plenty good.

Home in This Direction at times puts me in mind of Phil Keaggy during his early solo years. The softness, the ease and the heartfelt sentiment shine through, simple and direct, and oh those melodies. Raser and Keaggy share a sameness of ear or something of that sort because there are short stretches of Raser's songs which, had I heard them without knowing, would swear was Keaggy. No overpowering vocals, no bombastic background, just simple, beautiful songs. For those who know Keaggy's music, take the softer side of What a Day and Love Broke Thru and you just about have it. And for those Keaggy fans who would read this and read into it what they will, I am not saying is or is as good as Keaggy. I am saying that the styles are somewhat similar, that's all. I love Keaggy's music. I love Home in This Direction too.

The songs that strike me most are the obvious more melodic offerings like the title track, with its light and airy melody and equally light and airy guitar support, Deliver Me (especially at the end when Raser's voice slowly works its way into the upper end), Communication (it is cinematic love song at its best and, again, has that Keaggy edge), and the true anomaly, Goodbye, which has a real Italian bent (or maybe that's just the accordion affecting my brain cells). Those are only the ones which struck me hardest and I list them reluctantly because of the thirteen, there is not one which even hints of clunker.

Tell you what, there is a good chance your wife or girlfriend would love this. It would be a perfect Valentine's Day gift. Or, should you make one of the many manly mistakes us guys make at regular (or irregular) intervals, give her this CD and a dozen roses. She might not forgive you right away, but when she hears the music, your chances will rise dramatically.

And Derren, wherever you are, this album deserved a much timelier acknowledgment and I apologize profusely. It's a magnificent album, man. You done good. In fact, you done great.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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