Darryl Gregory - Fact From Fiction

by Kevin Orton Rating:10 Release Date:2018-07-09
Darryl Gregory - Fact From Fiction
Darryl Gregory - Fact From Fiction

A good friend once remarked, “Bandcamp is the greatest record store in the world.” In a world where record stores have all but largely vanished, that’s quite a statement. But he’s right, there are countless amazing artists on bandcamp awaiting discovery. Granted, browsing the virtual bins is a daunting proposition. But take the time and you will inevitably stumble across a real gem.

While he’s released a number of albums over the years, Darryl Gregory’s latest, Fact From Fiction is a standout in his catalog. If Bauhaus’ Peter Murphy dipped his toe into Folk and Country Rock, it might come close to sounding like this guy. In addition to a warm, flexible baritone, Gregory’s also a nimble multi-instrumentalist. Musically, Bruce Springsteen and Folkies like Martin Sexton are undeniable influences. But Gregory’s songs successfully reach well beyond all that in their eclecticism and diversity. Any tendency to be overwrought, is deftly avoided. The results are an album with dry wit and charm. One that imaginatively uses its Rootsy influences, as opposed to cementing their trappings and cliché. Taking them elsewhere.  

Fact From Fiction kicks off with ‘Count On Me’. The kind of ukulele ditty you might find on Paul McCartney’s Ram. Yet Gregory seems all too aware that such a stunt can easily slip into cutesy insipidness. Fortunately, Gregory avoids all that by casting the song in heartfelt sarcasm and nagging doubt. It’s a feat that’s bookends the album with, ‘I Want To Fall In Love With You (Again).’

‘Still Life Painter’ draws from the cheery side of Americana but is more a tale of voyeurism and ennui. A sort of J. Alfred Prufrock, sketching people in a coffee shop from a lonely corner. “Casually I frame it all and frame it somewhere new,” Gregory sings. A sentiment that best sums up this long player.

‘Easy’ is the kind of song that fits well into the adult Folk Rock Genre, unafraid of its middle-aged perspective. Here a fetching tattooed gamine reminds the narrator, “there’s nothing easy about growing old.” True, its not a fashionable perspective, any more than it’s a romantic one. But it’s a brutally honest one. Refreshing in this day in age. Elsewhere, ‘All Alone’ makes catchy Pop out of dying alone with one’s addictions and ghosts. And this is what makes Fact From Fiction so compelling. Making accessible songs out of the things we all fear and seek to avoid.

‘Unnecessary Things’ can’t help but bring the great Richard Thompson to mind. “Everything about him was a contradiction”, Gregory divulges of his subject. “He was a character in an old Springsteen song. And I couldn’t tell fact from fiction. And we buried him ’85.” A song that acknowledges that our mentors and influences may not be all they’re cracked up to be. It’s the kind of song a twenty-something simply lacks the perspective to write. And while it might fall on deaf ears in today’s youth market, it packs a wallop in terms of resonance if you’ve been around the block.

‘Psalm 33’ brings it all down to an acoustic and Gregory’s deep baritone before launching into a Country Rock power ballad. ‘Dear Hollywood’ dips into the ‘Oh, Darling’ Beatlesque with some tasteful ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ guitar licks.  ‘I Think Terrible Things’ touches on swampy, Tony Joe White territory with just a hint of Cramps Rockabilly. ‘Crazy Love’ is an irresistible duet in the Emmy Lou Harris tradition and a true highlight. The kind of Pop confection that could have come from the wry pen of Lloyd Cole.

This is an album that unapologetically casts its eye on the interior life of a middle aged white guy. Separating the fact from the fiction. In addition, it’s incredibly well recorded and played. There aren’t many albums on today’s hit parade offering songs on aging, longing and not being able to hold your liquor anymore. It’s a demographic the music business steadfastly ignores in favor of the fiction that youth lives forever. Fortunately, in today’s online world, you can stumble across albums like this. If you know where to look. While not necessarily for Peter Murphy fans, Fact From Fiction is highly recommended for admirers of Richard Thompson and Lloyd Cole.

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