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Willy Gantrim - Alone and Adrift

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 15 / 12 / 2013

Willy Gantrim - Alone and Adrift
Label: Wind Some Lose Some Records
Format: CD


Atmospheric and heartfelt official debut album from Wisconsin-born singer-songwriter Willy Gantrim, which recorded in Copenhagen combines elements of delta blues, country, old-time religious music and folk music

‘Alone and Adrift’ is Wisconsin-born Willy Gantrim’s first "official" album but his music has already made an impression on those who have heard his earlier work, spread over two (non-official I guess then) albums and a live EP. It’s strange that it’s taken a Danish label to release Gantrim’s official debut; his music is so deeply rooted in Americana but it’s taken the vision of Wind Some Lose Some Records and a studio in Copenhagen to bring an obviously talented artist wider recognition. Gantrim has travelled and this shows in his songs. He grew up in Houston before moving through America; New Orleans and Milwaukee were just two of the places he passed through before settling in Brooklyn picking up jobs as he went. Working construction, in bars and corner shops as well as in a dental floss flavouring factory have all no doubt helped shape the sound of Gantrim’s music; this is music from the heart, from someone who has seen hard times. There is beauty in these songs, but it’s not immediately obvious. More than anything this is honest music. The sound of the delta blues can be heard throughout ‘Alone and Adrift’. Mix this together with the country, old-time religious music and folk music that the young Gantrim grew up around and you have some idea of why, although embracing elements of all of the above, Gantrim has produced, through the music that influenced him, a sound that while always looking affectionately at the past is taking leaps into the future. ‘Alone and Adrift’ is a real eye opener. In fact, there has been little music of this standard that has reached these ears that could fall into this genre for some time. The opening song which is also the title track, is an atmospheric piece of work, Gantrim recalling a dreamt conversation with angels is spookily affective. Recording with a full band for the first time and leaving his homeland to do so has been an inspired move. The initial noise gives way to a sweet, short instrumental introduction before Gantrim’s world-weary vocals start unfolding the tale. While not a Dylan clone, it’s apparent from the off why Gantrim has been compared to the great man vocally before. Gantrim’s vocals belong in the "love them or hate them" category. There’s no sitting on the fence. Thankfully Gantrim, on this album at least, keeps things interesting by never repeating the same song twice, thereby giving those who might find his vocals a little repetitive over a whole album something else to hold onto. The following song, for example, ‘Keep On Up’ is dominated by Gantrim’s slide guitar work and displays his bluesy side to perfection. For someone who is obviously still young, Gantrim’s vocals sound really authentic, like he’s some undiscovered old blues guy, and after a few plays despite sterling work from those backing him it’s Gantrim’s vocals that linger in your head. Even on songs like ‘Trouble in Mind’, with honky-tonk piano and organ adding texture and colour to the sound, it’s still that voice that stays with you and ultimately has you playing the track again. In many ways Gantrim has captured the spirit of Americana through the ages perfectly on this album. You can hear it all in these songs. From Hank Williams through Dylan to The Felice Brothers, Gantrim has breathed new life into ancient sounds. When he displays a more mellow side on tracks like ‘Tomorrow is Only a Dream’, it’s impossible not to be impressed not only by the superb playing by all concerned but by the sympathetic production by Anders Christophersen and what must rank as Gantrim’s best vocal on the album. The closing song ‘The Rancor in Needfulness’ is another song that captures Gantrim in a mellow setting, and displays that Gantrim is a lyricist of no little worth too. Tales of lost love are particularly suited to his melancholic vocals. On any other album this song would be an undisputed highlight, but on ‘Alone and Adrift’ it’s just one of many. Gantrim should book another trip to Denmark, we need more of this.

Track Listing:-
1 Alone & Adrift
2 Keep On Up
3 Look Out!
4 Trouble in Mind
5 Resignation
6 A Million Miles to Go
7 Tomorrow Is Only a Dream
8 Brand New Bottle Blues
9 A Brief Sigh
10 Tender Lovin' Hold
11 The Rancor in Needfulness

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