Review: Christo Graham, “Graham’s General Store”

Christo Graham, “Graham’s General Store”

Christo Graham released his seventh self-produced album, “Graham’s General Store,” back on October 1st, via the We Are Busy Bodies label.  The album pirouettes through a series of humorous anecdotes about family, friends, fun times had, and more fun time to come.  Steeped in eclectic rural sound, alt-roots homespun Americana, the ten song selections written by Graham in 2020 (with the exception of “Jesus Tender,” written by Jeanne Lambert and based upon the poem by Mary Lundie Duncan) will make you weep, laugh, dance, and sing along, but not necessarily in that order.

Intended as a “surprise 43rd wedding anniversary” gift for his parents, Graham gathered together his siblings Carey, Theo, Leigh, and Theresa, to make a family band, and record the album in his home studio.  Conceptually, the song series is a reflection of their past childhood memories – the small town, their parents’ store, and the music these fine musical talents cut their teeth on and more.

Following a brief introductory tune, delineating the haberdashery of delightful goods on offer at the store, the band takes off in a rollicking, musical smorgasbord of styles and tempo, rich in vast array of instrumentation and harmonies.  From the opening track to the closing, the general mood is fast paced, inviting and incredibly pleasurable; this multi-instrumentalist writer and his family are having a ball together romping through these songs like a playground at recess.

“Front Porch” establishes the tone of set.  Reminiscent of early George Harrison, (‘Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)’), the lyric encapsulates the themes to come.  The sweetness of memory, the tenderness of love filled recollection, the mystery of familial connection.  “The past is never past, it shall remain / If we keep on living it over and over again / The past is never past, it’s all the same.”  Somewhere deep inside of all of us, these cherished ghost-like feelings haunt or redeem us.

Christo Graham

“Phone A Friend” is the truest country tune in the mix.  Graham sardonically describes his humble status in the realm of things, so why wouldn’t someone want to call him.  The narrator is surrounded with the band’s voices, finding their part in the chord with a lone bass voice going in and out and deeper and deeper.

Perhaps the rockiest track is “Nothin’ Works,” with its twanging, scintillating lead guitar and that bass vocal again, and its list of all the attempts the singer has tried to mend his broken heart, tongue firmly in cheek.  There’s a lot to admire in the playing and pace of this piece, and will surely be one to be returned to.

“Livin’ For Something” could be a possible companion to “Nothin’ Works,” but with an accompaniment of lightly strummed acoustic guitar and a shaker as the only percussion, the track has a lively hilarity to it.  Along with “Front Porch,” it is likely to find favored popularity on streaming services or as a radio single.

The past is just the past, but it informs every step we take.  Graham doesn’t appear to be old enough to directly remember some of these sounds, but in “Sun Song,” the band carves out a sultry rendition of Beatles-esque beauty that stands strong among the other tributes poised on this record.  Each one associated with specific time and place, memory as sound caught in the wavelengths.

Graham has created enormous beauty and entertainment in these tracks, bringing together a phenomenal band that bring unique diversity and contrast to each of the arrangements.  Given its intent to be a gift to loved ones, Graham has hit the mark and gone beyond.  “Graham’s General Store” is a singular, powerful, exciting work.

Artist Website: https://grahamsgeneralstore.com/home

Douglas McLean fell in love with music at a very early age and has worked as a musician and songwriter since his early teens. He has a deep love for the written word and has spent his life in pursuit of language as a means to convey what Van Morrison once called “the inarticulate speech of the heart”. He lives deep in the Almaguin Highlands with his wife and their dog. Douglas is active in local radio, recording, producing and writing, in and around Huntsville, Ontario.

His website is:
http://www.douglasmcleanmusic.com

Tags from the story