You don’t have to be an expert music critic to tell when an artist is really invested in the material that they’re making, and when it comes to creating a personable album, few stewards of modern Americana do it better than David Gelman, whose latest record Last Surviving Son is causing quite a stir in the country community this spring – and for good reason. The harmonies that come together to form this ambitious effort from the singer/songwriter are second to none among his discography, and while I’ve heard a lot of LPs worth writing home about this May, only a couple have left the dramatic impression that this one does whenever I put it on my stereo.
Ballads like “Let It All Go,” “Because You Love Me” and “In the Sun” are probably the main reason why I would tell you to get your hands on Last Surviving Son at the moment, but they’re not the only captivating characters that you’ll meet when scanning through the songs here. “The Roads We Didn’t Take” is punishingly honest and contemplative, and “My Vows to You (Wedding Song)” has all the makings of a classic country love song without any of the annoying lyrical platitudes.
The production quality of Last Surviving Son is top notch, and it’s definitely a lot more sophisticated and urbane than anything that David Gelman has put his name on before. This isn’t meant to be a dig at Undertow or All Roads Lead Here; in actuality, while those records didn’t leave much to be desired, Last Surviving Son goes above and beyond what I normally would expect out of an indie country release and then some. The gospel-style “Presence of the Lord” would make for just as strong a single as “Far Away” does, as would “Because You Love Me” and the title track.
Gelman has received a lot of attention for songwriting skillset both as a solo musician and as a collaborator with other likeminded artists, but he’s also an incredibly gifted singer, and does a fine job of flexing some legit vocal muscle in “Soft Surrender,” “Lonely Tonight” and “Set It Free.” He’s singing like he’s got nothing to lose in this album, and moreover, like he’s awakened a beast of an attribute that was only hinted at in past releases. There isn’t any artificiality to come between us and his smoky timbre here, which makes it all the easier to appreciate every facet within his elaborate execution.
After giving it all of my attention over the last weekend, I’ve come to the conclusion that you would be hard-pressed to find a better country/folk hybrid than you will in this ultimately engrossing effort from David Gelman, who silences any critic who might have suggested that he wasn’t capable of giving us something of this caliber. If the momentum that his career has been experiencing gets any more intense, it won’t be long before the tight-knit underground that gave him his start becomes too small to hold the rising star that he is, and my gut is telling me that this climactic moment in the spotlight is right around the corner.
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