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Chariot - Stripped

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Album Review

After receiving strong notices from the New York press for his fiery club performances, Gavin DeGraw signed with J Records and issued Chariot, his debut, in July 2003. But while it had promise, Chariot also suffered from a lack of imagination in the production department. There was no denying the humanity and bawdy soul wrapped up in DeGraw's voice, so why was it stifled by unimaginative, mainstream-leaning production? It's unclear what exactly prompted it (perhaps the album's slow burn rise on the charts?), but a full year later DeGraw's Chariot was re-released. However, this time around, the original studio version was joined by a song-for-song acoustic reading of Chariot, and the rawer presentation is exactly what it needed. The basic setup of drums, bass, acoustic guitar, subtle harmonies, and the piano and untreated vocals of DeGraw kicks out the slickness that shriveled cuts like "Follow Through," "Belief," and "Meaning." Here, they're the leafy greenery of a solid band kicking it on a warm April night in New York City. The title track was already a standout, but in its new, understated guise, there's a comforting Ben Harper quality about it. And the brushed snare is a perfectly subtle touch. "Just Friends" gets a new, mildly funky arrangement, and the cynically funny hedonism jam "Chemical Party" — "You're just too high to see my point/You think your name is 'Pass the joint'" — becomes a delightfully ragged jam with overtones of Simon & Garfunkel's "Cecilia." You can just imagine DeGraw kicking the piano stool out after the a cappella singalong breakdown. The effect of this "Stripped" format on DeGraw's music is immediate, and made more apparent by the inclusion of the studio cousin. It's an illustration of how great — how real — artists can sound when they aren't constrained by radio-ready sheen.


Born: 04 February 1977 in South Fallsburg, NY

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Years before "I Don't Want to Be" propelled him to pop/rock success, songwriter Gavin DeGraw began honing his piano skills at the age of eight, followed by his participation in several cover bands with his older brother in upstate New York. After a brief stint at the prestigious Berklee School of Music -- where he rubbed shoulders with future singer/songwriter contemporary John Mayer -- DeGraw decided to take his original songs to New York City. He arrived during the late '90s and steadily expanded...
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Chariot - Stripped, Gavin DeGraw
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