Some people study and work and work and study and never learn how to really write a song. Then there are people like John Gribbin, who hides behind the alter ego of Building Pictures, who seemingly cannot write a bad one. How the hell does he do it? A few thousand artists out there would love to know because if there is a key, he has it and they want it.
What he has on West Orchard is a perfect/imperfect voice, an amazing ability to match music to lyric, and a producer, Michael Keeney, who knows when to step in and when to stay out of the process. Song after song, I listened for defects—faults. I found none. Song after song, Gribbin takes us through his world—ten songs worth—and it is a musical world ready for the hearing.
As I listen, I inwardly shake my head, shocked at how quickly and how much I came to love this album. There is a bit of Jeff Finlin in some of the songs, and a bit of Will Kimbrough and David Olney and a string of songwriters who, as much as they are revered by musicians, are not what the buying public seems to want. Don't misunderstand. They all do well enough. They just don't do as well as they deserve. Not to my mind.
What Gribbin shares with those musicians is an ear for what is right when it comes to the complete song. He doesn't rely on hooks nor a voice (though his is form-fitted to the songs) nor a gimmick (though I hear Lady Gaga has plenty of old costumes he could probably wear to get attention). He relies on what lies within. A heart and a soul.
This is not one of those down-and-out sobfests you get from some. Gribbin is upbeat when the song requires it. But there is a depth to the songs—even the upbeat and toe-tapping ones. Check out In Her Veins, a light rocker with excellent instrumental break and background chorus. "She's got Brooklyn in her veins," he sings, "I'm not sure if some hope remains for him to change the way she feels." You have to hear how the lyrics are used to appreciate it. On Hurting, the chorus goes "You say it's all the words I use/That makes you get all confused/Well, I've got some news for you/You're making up your own mind for me/It's never gonna end perfectly/So how can you judge me." When you hear lyrics like that in the context of a song, you realize the importance of lyrics. When I was a kid, I thought you had to be a hundred to write like that. Gribbin, I think, does not just write that way but talks that way, he makes it sound so natural.
You want some tips on music? I will give you some names—like printed above, Will Kimbrough, David Olney, Jeff Finlin. Add to that, Tom House, Brock Zeman, Tom Mank, Tommy Womack. And John Gribbin. Sure, there are a few others out there, but you should get the picture.
There are ten outstanding songs on this album. Like I've seen printed in ads—"Cheap at Twice the Price." Easily.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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