Paul Curreri produced this. I mention that because when Drew Gibson approached me about a review, that was among the first things he said. Gibson is no dummy. He had (has) been following Curreri’s career from before the beginning, having grown up with him. They were friends and classmates before they were musicians and have remained friends since. Probably during his research for the release of The Southern Draw, he became acquainted with my writing. I write about Curreri a lot. I consider him a musical genius. He pushes envelopes. He stretches boundaries. He should be more well-known. After hearing The Southern Draw, I am convinced that so should Gibson.
So you can imagine my delight when I find that the following tunes not only did not sound like Curreri (though you can hear Curreri’s influence in short bursts), they sounded like a hundred songs I’d heard in the past and yet sounded like none. Gibson has done on The Southern Draw what I expect to hear from the best these days. He has written truly original songs within the confines of his roots, past and present. He has written from the heart and soul. You can tell by the timbre of his voice, the progression of chords, the phrasing. You can tell by the way he utilizes the instruments he plays, and he plays many. You can tell by the cohesiveness of the sound and the sequencing of the tracks.
The Southern Draw was not recorded in a vacuum. It was put together over a four-year period, more than likely on visits to Charlottesville and Curreri. It was prepped and primed and more than likely cajoled into existence, yet it is surprisingly consistent. I hear whispers of Curreri and Josh Ritter and Jeff Talmadge (his song “Crazy Little Town” haunts me to this day) and even a more somber Bruce Springsteen. The little touches make a huge difference — the eerie organ on “I Know I Miss You More” (it is perfect), the placing of the melodic light rocker “On Sunday” behind that opening track (and the muted background vocals on the same), the shared vocals with Devon Sproule on the exceptional “We Move by Wagon Train,” the deep tremolo on the electric guitar on “Knoxville.” Albums like this are born with the word “tasty” in their description.
I expect albums of this caliber from Curreri. I now expect albums of this caliber from Gibson. Mark The Southern Draw down as a sleeper. It jumped into my (thus far) Top Ten albums of 2012 after only a few listens. And the more I hear it, the more I like it. Drew Gibson, I am always eager to shake hands with another Paul Curreri fan. You done good.