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Just when I thought I had the code worked out, Gary Dranow threw me the latest in a long line of curve balls. You see, the clue was in the artwork, wasn’t it? If the image was of him in his slightly southern-looking, cowboy-infused, old-world garb, that signaled that we were to follow him on one of his more bluesy sonic escapades. If the accompanying artwork were futuristic and brightly colored, then we would find him embracing his more contemporary, musical mores.
With that as my guide, I hit play on the day-glo-coloured, neon-lit, futuristic cityscape-wrapped “Self-Sacrifice.” What I found in place of the expected alt-rock onslaught was quite different – at least to begin with. He’s done it again.
Yes, the early ebb and flow between balladic understatement and wailing walls of guitar sit between the two extremes of his sonic world. The song’s initial forays find him far from his penchant for more bluesy pursuits and, for much of the early part of the song, not yet hitting his full-on, almost metal-leaning groove.
But as the song progresses, the understatements become less, and the sonic walls and guitar squalls, ferocity, and intensity grow as we move towards those anthemic highlands that you know are his final destination.
I am continually intrigued and impressed by Gary Dranow. Many artists find the one thing that they do well and capitalize on that. And there is nothing wrong with such an approach. A few find two areas where they excel and live a dual life. Gary Dranow goes a step further. Two sonic points loosely define the extremes of his creativity, one bluesy, familiar and traditional, the other forward-thinking, exploratory and inventive. Yet he not only steps between these worlds with ease, he blurs the lines between the two, explores every combination of how they might fit together, and mines every sound and sentiment in between. And he even ventures beyond even those loose demarcations when the mood takes him.
Gary Dranow proves that being creative is an end in itself, that it is about the beauty of the journey rather than the finality of the destination, and that constant exploration and reinvention is the key to staying relevant, interesting, exciting, and, from the artist’s perspective, perhaps even sane.
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