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Gary Dranow - Dad (self-released)

6 March 2024

I would start this review with words such as “he never ceases to amaze me,” if it weren’t for the fact that amazing me has become precisely what I expect from Gary Dranow that the phrase has lost much of its impact, if you know what I mean. The thing with Gary is that as soon as you have him pegged as a bluesman, he throws an alt-rock song at you. Accept that he can do that too, and he breaks out the country tunes, expect one style from him and he gives you another. He is a veritable musical chameleon, inhabiting many musical landscapes, fitting in and making them his own.

And so this time out, something different again. “Dad” is a piano-driven torch song, a balladic tribute to a father, a deftly wrought and delicate piece. But the best thing about it, for me at least, is the thing that doesn’t happen. Given most people’s association with Gary as a blistering guitar player, the fact that the song doesn’t round off with an incendiary guitar salvo is a poignant and purposeful move. Most people would go for such a signature move. Gary is demonstrably smarter than that.

Instead, the song is allowed to move along gently under its own steam, slowly adding slight additional textures as it does. It becomes more anthemic as it heads for the finish and drops in some final heavenly harmonies and chiming sonics, making its point through understatement instead of going overboard.

And that tells us a lot about Gary Dranow. He is not one for showboating, flexing the ego or hogging the spotlight. He understands the idea of serving the song, which is vital for something so touching and expressive as this.

All music has a teaching point, at least all music that matters does. And if there is one thing to take away from “Dad,” it is this. Just because you can put something into a song doesn’t mean you have to. A lot of bands could learn from that simple fact.