Graham Isaacson - The Primer EP
Record Label: Authentik Artists
Release Date: Feb. 24 2009 (physical), Oct. 6, 2009 (digital)
Graham Isaacson isn't going to sell hordes of records or make it onto FM airwaves. You probably won't see his face on Fuse or on the cover of Rolling Stone. To that degree, his music is most aptly suited for AAA formats and the likes of Paste Magazine and that's just fine with him. Now five plus years into a career, this under-the-radar troubadour is a rare talent and Portland, ME is lucky to call him their own. Blessed with a gravelly timbre not unlike Tom Waits or Johnny Cash, the 20-something churns out bare-bones singer-songwriter fare with light instrumentation. Album opener "Shot Me at Sunrise," begins with a Van Morrison-like movement and a sultry saxophone.
The valentine "Don't Look Away," asks a lover to "not look away. A man can get lost in those eyes," whereas the husky "Angel Underneath," points to his oaken vocal delivery and his gruff exterior, and the entire exercise feels something akin to John Hiatt. On the gooey "Love Replaces Love," he sings about affection and solace in a tender and amiable way, not unlike Griffin House. "Hot Lovin' Lady." and "Hurts" are also autumnal efforts with a husky confidence that seem to be equal parts haggard and hopeful, with the latter recalling some of the bleaker moments of life, and the former finding redemption in an attractive female.
Hailed by fellow Mainer Ray LaMontagne as possessing songwriting chops that are "pure and true. [They] explore the hopeful, dark and mystical way of love," Isaacson was a runner-up in the vaulted 2006 International Songwriting Music Competition. This is organic, simplistic songwriting fueled by minimalism and honesty. Poignant, candid and touching, Isaacson has both a voice and lyrical acumen that belie his years. He sings songs that seem rooted in a bygone place and a faraway locale: cotton fields, dusty roads, grain combines and late-night whiskey-soaked conversations. And when songs take us to places like that, that's the true mark of something special.