Drew Danburry - Goodnight Gary
Record Label: Emergency Umbrella
Release Date: Feb. 9, 2010
When describing Utah folksinger Drew Danburry a host of adjectives immediately spring to mind: eccentric, quirky, pragmatic. In the six years since his 2004 debut he has released two LPs, a live disc, and an EP and has criss-crossed the country relentlessly. To say, Danburry has a tireless work ethic is putting it mildly. The new year sees the release of his latest full-length, a hotly anticipated 10-song collection entitled Goodnight Gary.
The disc opens with "The Religion of Me," which begins dusty and spartan as Danburry sounds limp and weary. As the song moves forward, he sings, "There's a cheering cavalcade, a chorus that will swell," almost as if to insinuate what is about to take place. In the next few seconds, the song lifts upward like a solemn prayer, making for a most gorgeous opener and a pleasant way for Danburry to usher in the new decade. The disc's apex appears in the form of third track "For my Friends," a smoky platter of acoustic guitar, cymbals, handclaps and trumpet. When the drums kick in at the 2:30 mark, it's readily apparent that Danburry has crafted a song that only few others can achieve. There's a distinct personality and flavor to it that's incredibly authentic and so deeply felt.
On the breezy and wistful "Gas Masks at the Barbecue Beach Party Make Out Session," he carves his way through a danceable ditty that is for all intents and purposes a party song; an exercise in levity if you will. While his vocals leave a lot to be desired, he certainly does his best to make up for it with a sprite shuffle that's inspired and hopeful. The urge to dance is almost overwhelming. And then almost predictably, Goodnight Gary begins to unravel. The exhaustive "Dinwiddie is a Great Name For City....." throws together a minute-long instrumental interlude and a superfluous dance beat to make for arguably the album's biggest disappointment. Even with lyrics like, "Just because you can't feel it, doesn't mean that it's false," the offering is an absolute mess and proof positive that even when he's hitting home runs, he's still prone to striking out.
He attempts to atone for said mistake on the delicate "These Windy Days Make for Winded Nights," a measured study in restraint and simplicity. Danburry's vocal softness is most assuredly his strong suit, as is his tender ability to convey so much with just a voice and a guitar. It's a tactic that Goodnight Gary could have used more of. On the disc's final three songs only the penultimate cut "Many are Cold, but Few are Frozen," is worth celebrating. A strong narrative about romance and the aimless struggle for companionship, "Many are Cold," is Danburry at his very best.
And therein lies the very problem with Drew Danburry. Undeniably charismatic and unfailingly sincere, he has been blessed with a keen eye for detail and the inherent ability to tell thought-provoking, literate stories. Instead he chooses to throw in a laundry list of quirky effects, head-scratching arrangements and puzzling production choices. Though some would argue that the mantra of less is more can often be a hindrance, in the case of Danburry it might actually be a blessing. As it stands now Goodnight Gary portrays only a fraction of Danburry's seemingly limitless potential.