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Danny Gruff - 'Danny Gruff' Album Review


1. Tightrope

2. Comfortable

3. We Got This

4. Pieces

5. After The Storm

6. Coffee Beans

7. Country Song

8. Share The Same Skies

9. Old Haunts

10. Something Good

11. Last Man Standing

In an age where fabricated bands and musicians are handed opportunities on a plate, there's always someone out there to carry on the troubadour tradition. If proper working musicians like Frank Turner and Gaz Brookfield float your boat then prepare to add Danny to your list.

Ten years of playing and gigging (last year he racked up 281) has helped hone his craft, which pays dividends on his self titled album.

Album opener 'Tightrope' starts with a subtle acoustic guitar part before Danny sings "the higher the tightrope the bigger the fall". It comes across as more Pop than your usual singer songwriter expectations, but he has an knack of luring you in. This isn't some hollow gesture of a song, this is Danny pretty much telling you how the album is going to play out.

'Comfortable' wouldn't sound too out of place on a Bruce Springsteen album, it's a big rousing anthem that makes Gruff sound like he's being backed by Little Steven, the late Clarence Clemons and the rest of the legendary E Street Band crew. 'We Got This' is a nice Newton Faulkner-esque summery Pop song, building a nice upbeat feel through the song.

If the first three songs felt like the songwriter throwing jabs like a boxer, 'Pieces' is that suckerpunch that will leave you dazed. It comes across as simple, a subtle guitar riff propelled by Danny's treated vocals. There's some real intent hidden here, the songs protagonist coming across a little wounded and bitter, a fuck you directed at some unknown target. At a concise 181 seconds it's already one of my songs of the year.

'After The Storm' mellows the pace again, an upbeat, mid paced Pop song with it's subject singing "let me be happy in my misery". 'Coffee Beans' is a good follow up, the squeak of the acoustic guitar gives a nice feeling of intimacy, not hanging around too long.

The basic arrangements of the songs work well in Danny's favour as they lend to his song writing ability whilst allowing some room for his vocals to shine through. 'Country Song' allows you to pick up on the slight rasp to his voice, even in a higher key. We're not talking a full on Tom Waits sound but there's enough there to give you a flavour whilst making his voice sound pretty unique. 'Share The Same Skies' works on the same kind of level but with the addition of some nice female vocal harmonies making it sound a little bit different to the other tracks on the album.

A piano leads the main musical melody on 'Old Haunts', the chorus comes across as classy and understated. Rather than going big and bombastic, he keeps delicate and mellow, making the song work better because of it.

He ups the tempo and the feel in the penultimate track. 'Something Good' takes some of the craft that the guys in U2 used to use when they used to make music that would matter. Album closer 'Last Man Standing' sees Gruff facing the end of the album with a sense of defiance. There's a hint of epic here without becoming too bombastic. It takes a skill to not throw everything into a song leaving it too cluttered. Danny knows how to arrange his work to play to his strengths.

It's a good, strong album. Hopefully his constant touring will see him visit an intimate stage near you, because, on the strength of his songs and performances here, he could be moving on to big things soon. Catch him while you can and you won't be disappointed.

Review - Scott Hamilton

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