How refreshing it is to find music that engages the mind on more than one level. Whatever happened to good lyric writing? Strangely it is only when I listen to something like David Griggs' new EP Dearly Departing that I remember how much I miss really good lyrics, lyrics that are subtle and make you think, lyrics that will stand on their own as poetry. In a musical landscape swamped with mediocrity, glib rhymes and facile emotions, David Griggs' lyrics are genuinely moving and subtly evocative, deeply felt and accessible without being twee, they transport us easily to places and moments, unforced and unaffected.
David Griggs' voice reminds me a little of Al Stewart, or perhaps Peter Sarstedt. The music itself is spare and poised, lulling the listener but keeping them engaged. The guitar is insistent without being needy, the other elements used subtly, and for emphasis. In a world awash with urgent beats that demand our attention - how nice it is to be seduced by music rather than swamped by noise.
This is an accomplished debut. More please!
Singer-songwriter David Robert Griggs can relate to Johnny Cash’s classic song, “I’ve Been Everywhere” and what those nomadic experiences can bring out of a songwriter’s music. Griggs was born in England and then moved to Sydney, Australia. After living there for sixteen years, he then landed in Portland, Oregon to pursue his music career. But even after finally settling in to America, his restlessness again took him to Amsterdam for three months to write and record his debut EP Dearly Departing. The self-released EP, just recently released and available in the iTunes store or at his website, is made up of four songs of intimate and emotionally charged, well crafted acoustic chamber-folk. Dearly Departing has a definitive theme carried out during its four songs, though I wouldn’t consider it a “concept” album. Lyrically, he sings about the intimate moments in life where you find yourself in an introspective mood after a big event like the end of a relationship, and he focuses on the closure or lack thereof as well as the spark that a new beginning can bring. It is a universal theme that is easily relatable and even easier when placed into the poetic hands of Griggs.
“Net Zero” opens the album with a cyclical fingerstyle guitar figure, sweeping violin and twinkling piano and also introduces us to David Robert Griggs’ deep and dynamic David Gray-like voice and homespun, Americana melodies. The next track, “In The North” begins and ends with a Gospel-inspired choir of voices that reaches for the rafters with their meditative harmonies before a slow yet insistent gentle guitar comes in and blends with the violin into a fittingly chilling atmosphere for a song about loss and regret. Stand out track “If Only” follows with hypnotic guitars, lilting vocals and the EP’s most immediately catchy moment on the sing along chorus, “And I wish I was your friend, but above all else I wish you well.” It is that type of nostalgia-laced sentimentality that resonates throughout this set of songs that fully engages and transports the listener. And the too short EP closes with the equally too short track, “Elysian Fields Getaway” and features close knit harmonies, a propulsive guitar riff, a staccato piano melody and Biblical imagery for another stand out moment. I know it is cliché for music critics to say “it leaves you wanting more” but in some cases it is absolutely true and this is one of those cases. Griggs’ music is inviting and engaging; funneling in all of his experiences, good and bad, and then channeling them through his music for the listener to live in. That is what great folk music is all about.
Hopefully, a proper full length album will be released soon because the organic folk, ornate arrangements and unique storytelling of the Dearly Departing EP makes for a promising debut that should put singer-songwriter David Robert Griggs on the Americana and folk music radar.
Well, that is if he can stay still long enough!
"Many of the artists who populate the singer/songwriter genre seem to think performance is a kind of emotional garage sale where their thoughts and feelings may simply be stacked haphazardly out on a metaphorical front lawn for audiences to pick through if they feel so inclined. David Robert Griggs is not one of those performers, and unlike many of his peers Griggs has no "shtick" - unless you call poise and graciousness a gimmick. Watching him perform you get the feeling he is, almost hesitatingly, opening a window to the quiet place inside where his thoughts and emotions live. There is a sense that you would be intruding to invite yourself in, and indeed that you don't want to mess with the way he has things arranged. You're just happy you've been given the opportunity to see something of his world."