13 Songs, 49 Minutes

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Ratings and Reviews

Spin45 ,

worth the wait. . . .

George Gilmore has been a long-time and respected fixture on the downtown NYC alt-roots music scene, starting with his first band, late-80s local heroes The Tall Lonesome Pines, and continuing through his more recent combo, George Gilmore & The Giblets. But Gilmore has also a been a "real" writer for some time (e.g., he conceived and wrote the screenplay for the award-winning indie film "Burnzy's Last Call"), and with "I Am A Weed", he steps up a whole bunch of notches into the league of serious scribe/tunesmiths that includes Leonard Cohen, Kris Kristofferson, John Prine, and Townes Van Zandt. Musically, his palette includes traditional country, more modern alt-country, and even some glancing asides to British Invasion tropes ("The Last Resort" channels the Small Faces via a Joe Jackson-esque edge to the melody, without ever losing track of Gilmore's thoroughly American take on a classic guilt-ridden day-of-reckoning scenario). And the music fits the mood on every song here (kudos to producer Charlie Roth for the variety of musical tableaux that enhance without overpowering the subtleties inherent in Gilmore's lyrics, to Adam Roth for the ultra-sympathetic plectrum work, keybist Charlie Giordano for the excellent swashbuckling organ).

But it's the words that ultimately drive the music here, and while Gilmore can be funny at the drop of a syllable ("The Good Lord Smote My Eye" wades into gospel-fried mock-religious enquiry with lines like "Well, He musta had a reason. . . "), overall, this is an album than does not avoid the down-side of life. The good news is that George Gilmore has matured as an artist to the point where he can delve into heavy themes with a sure metaphoric touch and some real poetic authority. "Bottle in the Weeds" works as both a simple drinking song and a deeper look at the whole idea of hidden objects that can dog us in life; "Lost It In The Sun" becomes a haunted memory play about lost love; "What Good Would It Do" is like an intimate, Leonard Cohen-style ballad where the singer realizes he's blown it for the last time with a lover; for all its subtlety, this song would also sound entirely credible and heartfelt on a George Jones album.

But perhaps the crowning achievement here is also the most deceptively simple tune, "Torn Down". With only a delicately plucked steel guitar as accompaniment, the singer reviews a litany of life's disappointments and gradual erosions without, amazingly, wallowing in self-pity. The song is so well-written, and the analogies and metaphors are so expertly and casually tossed off like leaves sliding past in a stream (“. . . wear and tear and a little fresh air, remember way back when you didn’t care, bit by bit you fall apart, first a little crack and then a big one starts. . . .”), that its inherent sadness never overwhelms . . . not once. It’s not easy or common to hear a song this basic, that deals with the big issue so clearly and intimately. With “I Am a Weed”, George Gilmore finally steps up to the plate as a songwriter, and knocks it right out of the park.