John DeGrazio,
Abandoned World
(Bucks Mill, 2003)

I was immediately grabbed by the simple guitar hook of "Under the Weather" when I put John DeGrazio's second full-length solo CD, Abandoned World, in the stereo. At more than six minutes, this first of 12 tracks is a good introduction to the quality of music this self-produced CD by DeGrazio contains.

Singer-songwriter John DeGrazio is virtually a one-man band. Thanks to modern recording equipment, if you didn't know any better, you would swear he has a band backing him up on guitar, bass, drums and piano on this piece.

I have yet to make up my mind if DeGrazio is a better guitar player or songwriter. He isn't a bad singer, either. Every song has a hook, whether it is with the melody, the lyrics, the singing or a combination. Abandoned World gets played so often in my house, in my car and at work that I sometimes listen to it more than once per day.

The song "Something Chemical" speaks to me. The melody is very melancholy, and yet it is the lyrics that are most poignant. We all know people that are always right, never wrong. DeGrazio's response: "It must be something chemical / 'Cause you think you know it all / I'm tired of playing in your world / 'Cause there's something missing in you / And I can't put my finger on it / It's something I just feel when you're around...."

A friend who heard me playing this CD noted how religious it sounded, and not what they would expect me to listen to. Upon some investigation, DeGrazio appears to be a Christian, although this does not overpower his music for those of you who practice different faiths. He notes on his website that he has toured with Jars of Clay (a very Christian band). Yet, depending upon how you interpret the lyrics, you might correctly decide that Abandoned World is either very religious or not at all. How you relate to the music is personal. If you want Abandoned World to be a Christian CD, then for you, it is a Christian CD. I think this CD has the ability to cross religious boundaries.

A good example of this would be the song "Promised Land." The chorus states "Nobody else / Is gonna bring me to the promised land but myself / Only I can reassure what I believe / And shape reality / Suddenly it seems / Like I'm the only one who sees my dreams...." To me, DeGrazio's words mean that his spiritual journey is an individual thing between him and his god (be that god Christian, Jewish, Muslim or other). Perhaps you would interpret the lyrics differently. Of course, you need to hear all the lyrics before you make a judgment.

Whereas Abandoned World is mostly a solo project, DeGrazio does receive a little help. Joining him on select tracks are Sara Adams (violin), Anne Young (violin and cello), James Warren (viola), Steven Delopoulos (acoustic guitar and vocals), J. Pat Dalton (harmonica and mandolin) and Rebecca Holsworth (flute). More than half the tracks, however, are solo efforts.

Without a doubt, John DeGrazio is a very talented individual. As a songwriter, his lyrics could be interpreted as Christian in nature, if you are so inclined. I would not let your religious background (or lack thereof) keep you from checking out this recording. DeGrazio's music might touch you in a different way. I am not very religious and whether Abandoned World is religious or not, I put this CD on my top-5 list for 2003 without hesitation.

- Rambles
written by Wil Owen
published 28 February 2004

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