Red Grammer,
Soul Man in a Techno World
(Red Note, 2001)

Red Grammer has written very many songs in the past for a much younger audience; even his publishing company, Smilin' Atcha, has a very interesting name that reflects much of the music on this CD.

The CD title is also very well chosen as Grammer appears to be one of those singer-songwriters who is fighting the winning fight against the machine-generated music so prevalent today. He has a great ear for dialogue and marries this extremely well to music that catches our attention.

Almost every track on this CD is a gem. He writes well about hope, love and adversity.

"Till Then" is a song about songwriting and the struggle to perfect the craft. In it he puts words on that hope of the writer that "someday the words will flow like water, they'll make perfect sense with every melody." "Flight" is a song that will find echoes in the heart and mind of every father who listens. Who has not wished a son well in the world that we raise them to enter without feeling "you're so ready to go, so why are these tears in my eyes as I watch you fly away?" In the title track, "Soul Man in a Techno World," he uses all the jargon of the modern age -- gigabytes, ETAs, digitise -- to tell us the sad truth that with all the information that we now have on each other we have even less an understanding of our fellow citizens.

"Strangely Wrapped Gift" is the epitome of a good story song. It illuminates our understanding without hammering home a message. It is a difficult song to summarise other than to quote a few lines and refer you to the title. "Little Jamie's body never worked right, his parents get weary, and still they always bless the day that little Jamie was born."

Grammer provides that great combination of a driving beat with soulful lyrics. He entertains while making us think. He plants messages without a sledgehammer. This is an album to listen to with the lyrics propped open before you. Otherwise you might just miss some of the stories on offer.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]
Rambles: 2 February 2002

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