I’ve got to be honest. I’m not entirely sure why Mr. Girard decided to send me his demo to review. Girard falls squarely into the “singer/songwriter” category. But you see, in my mind, such a category is inhabited by artists like Nick Drake, Damien Jurado, and David Bazan. On the other hand, Girard is much more mainstream than any of those artists, listing the likes of the Indigo Girls and the Black Crowes as influences. He describes his music as a a little bit of folk, a bit of blues, and a lot of pop and rock. That’s a fairly accurate description, but it doesn’t keep the music from being generally “middle of the road” fare.
The problem here is that it just doesn’t sound natural; I could be wrong but methinks Girard is trying too hard. When he moans and groans on “Take,” I’m sure it’s meant to be emotional and bluesy. But it sounds nowhere near as emotional as Nick Drake’s whisper or that catch in David Bazan’s voice. The disc does start off on a strong note — “This Old Town” isn’t too bad and “Take” even approaches Over the Rhine territory — but it slowly goes downhill, especially that slap bass and Girard’s “bluesy” vocal delivery on “Walk On Me.” And lyrics like “The first step to recovery/Is to know there’s something wrong with me/But I know how much better I would be/If you’d just take that first step for me/And walk all over me” don’t really do much to save the song. And “Pieces of You” falls into every blues cliche you could think of, even down to the chord progression. At least it’s not a Jewel cover.
This is music that 40 year old co-workers of mine would get into. It’s well-written, Girard has got a reasonably good voice, and he sure sounds real emotional. But I just can’t get over how “safe” it sounds. While listening to it, I just get this image of some guy playing in the coffeehouse, singing about heartbreak, poverty, and the struggles of the common man… before leaving with his wife and two kids in their fully-loaded SUV.
My advice (for what it’s worth)… stop listening to the Black Crowes and the Indigo Girls. Pick up some Nick Drake, Damien Jurado’s Rehearsals for Departure, and a Pedro the Lion CD or two. Heck, while you’re at it, pick up some Denison Witmer. Those guys know how it’s done. We could all learn a lot from them.