By Al Kaufman
Many a musician has made a living playing music from the heartland. It is a sound that is full and majestic, while simultaneously speaking in the voice of the regular guy. Griffin House has thatsound down, thanks largely to producer Jeff Trott (Sheryl Crow), who called in two of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers, Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench, for guitar and keyboard duties.
House's plan was to write personal songs with universal appeal. When a friend was called to Iraq, he wrote "I Remember (It's Happening Again)," told from the point of view of a World War II vet who cannot understand why we were in Vietnam and why we are in Iraq. With an anthemic feel, it is in the upper tier of all the anti-war songs that emerged in the last couple of years of the Bush presidency.
Many of the other songs deal with various relationships, and range in style from folk to all out rock. The stylish techno sound of "One Thing" would not sound out of place on a Roxy Music record, while the standout, the folksy "The Guy that Says Goodbye to You Is Out of His Mind," recalls Bob Dylan's "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go," and does so favorably. It's a beautiful, word-filled love song that sounds like something a working class guy would write – if he was an immensely talented songwriter.
House's lyrics often fall into cliche, but his rich vocals and sound more then make up for them. While the CD veers into mediocrity in the second half, it is literally saved by the gospel hymn "Waiting for the Rain to Come Down." Obviously influenced by one of House's favorite bands, U2, House conveys his pain without finding ultimate redemption. But as the music swells, we all feel healed.