is music to savor. Twenty-first century pioneer music to be sure.
Ragland has taken the role of the classic "singer-songwriter," where
the troubadour with his guitar sings his tales, and has quietly updated
it for a new era. On one level, it is music at its most bare-bones
- just voice and acoustic guitar. Yet on another, there is so much more
- Gar's music weds the dark, gentle tenor of such 70s greats as James
Taylor, Nick Drake and even Cat Stevens with modern harmonies and rhythms.
tenure as a student at New England Conservatory, Gar learned from his
mentor Ran Blake (himself a masterful and unique piano stylist and interpreter
of the American songbook) that silence and mood can embrace the simplest
of melodies and transform them into something more sophisticated, something
richer. Listen to Gar's version of Blake's "Vanguard" and you'll
see what I mean. As evidenced from his interpretations of Lennon and McCartney's
"Blackbird" and "Rain," Gar demonstrates his ability
to really get inside a song and gently turn it inside out, leaving the
listener wondering if what he just heard was really a cover or not.
songs are terse distillations of melody and harmony, blended together
forming a gauzy web around the listener. Echoes of the crushed splendor
of Nick Drake's dark suspensions ring out in songs like "Summer Haze"
and "Loneliness Leads to Madness." And Gar's simple, peaceful
lyricism shines brilliantly in his tender lullabye "Mrs. Knight."
is not all mood and brood music. Gar kicks up quite a hoe-down in "Antiques
Made Daily" and exudes plenty of earthy, New Orleans funkiness in
"Tchefuncte Funk." This
is an intimate and varied debut full of honest, soulful music. But don't
just take my word for it. Listen. Help yourself. Dig in.
Iowa City, IA