Guy-Michael Grande,
Familiar Strangers
(Route 5 Records, 2000)

Sometimes you listen to a CD and the music warms you. This is true of Familiar Strangers by Guy-Michael Grande. The songs might not always be happy, but even then there remains an edge to the music that hints of warmth.

The music is solid. It is a large part of what keeps the songs warm when they might not be and somehow it manages to fit those songs at the same time. Guy-Michael Grande has a wonderfully smooth voice and also plays the guitar. He is joined by Jim Chapdelaine (lead, rhythm, octave and resophonic guitars, dobro, bass, backing vocals and percussion), Drew Glacklin (bass), Jon Peckman (drums), Mario Vicenzo (backing vocals) and Lulu and Dizzy (dog tags, squawks and assorted background sounds).

"Here & Now" is a strange philosophical song. It shows the changes of thought without fully explaining how they came to pass. Then comes "Together Alone," which comes after the love is gone. The steady beat to the music keeps it from becoming sad, there is more of a matter-of-factness to the song than anything else. "Bermuda Love" is another unhappy song of failed love, and once again the upbeat feel to the music tempers the feel of the song.

"Giving Tree" is another love song, a beautifully soft-spoken song from one friend to another. The title and song were inspired by Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree. I am glad that Guy-Michael read that book. (Yes, the song is that good.)

The tempo kicks back up a notch for "All I Want," a delightfully simple love song. "Guardian Angel" drifts in with a slight jazzy feel to it; it is an unwritten letter from a secret guardian angel.

I don't quite follow the story in "Come Back" -- that it is about a relationship is as much as I have figured out so far. Where I get lost is what stage of the relationship everything is. "Hang Up" on the other hand comes just before the end of the relationship. Both songs have a nice, relaxed pace that carries through the song.

The CD ends with two love songs. The first, "No Bounds," tells of love with a strange grace. As the song blends a driving beat, quickly paced lyrics with a soaring guitar in the background. The song is fast and slow and it works. Then comes "Ever After," which is slower paced, gently flowing and touching. The song comes from the heart and is wonderful to hear.

Familiar Strangers is well worth the listen. The music is wonderful and the songs are warm, returning time and time again to love. Sit back and let it warm you for a while.

[ by Paul de Bruijn ]
Rambles: 21 July 2001