Wayne Graham | 1% Juice | (K & F Records)
3 1/2 out of 5 stars
Videos by American Songwriter
Fire up the Wayne Graham band’s homepage and you’re greeted with this message: “Wayne Graham wants you to know one thing. We are a band, not a person!”
A closer inspection indicates the “group” is fronted by brothers/multi-instrumentalists Kenny and Hayden Miles who are credited with the bulk of the music and, more interestingly, that this is their seventh album. That’s a lot of history already in the rear view mirror, which shows these guys are far from an untested new act. Rather Wayne Graham is a veteran outfit who has been recording for over a decade. Everything about 1% Juice proves they have paid their dues.
The disc is very much a studio recording with the siblings handling the vast majority of the sounds in an overdubbed process that sounds surprisingly rootsy and organic. There are hints of country, folk, blues, swamp rock and even muted pop in the brothers’ songs. If that sounds like something The Band might have cooked up in their early years, the comparison is apt.
The album unwinds at its own deliberate, somewhat laconic pace. Nothing is rushed and the atmosphere created on the opening “Tapestry of Time” with interwoven guitars and Hayden’s Levon Helm styled drums urging the rhythm along, is typical of the rest of the disc. That first song, concerning time and including the words “The fears, that you hold in your head/were passed down in your blood like the things you’ve never done but still regret,” takes some effort to ponder, like many of the concepts here.
Lead vocals are generally handled by Kenny. His voice is so inviting, unruffled and everyman, that you’ll let what seems like stream of consciousness words, such as those in “Pay Phone”’s “Mail order bride, made out with a bandit, branded like a bull. Cue tip counterfeit pool cue canyon working like a borrowed mule,” affably drift by without understanding what he’s referring to.
There’s a feeling of dislocation, of drifting, in the lovely ballad “Passenger Train” where Kenny sings “Months aboard, a passenger train/ curtains drawn and leaving on my mind. No matter where you go, people act the same/ make a habit out of leaving you behind.” The charming piano based closer “Some Days” adds overdubbed strings, providing a countrypolitan feel that goes down like honey as Hayden sings “And some days you’ll have to travel down the road you don’t want to go.”
The music seldom jumps out and grabs you. Yet there is a nonchalant beauty and innocence that entices the listener back for another spin. Gradually the songs take on an identity even with subtly shifting rhythms and an approach that can best be described as gentle. Listening closely, perhaps with headphones, brings the experience to a more personal level, even on the instrumental title track.
Wayne Graham makes music from the heart and mind. It’s honest, unaffected and pure, the essence of Americana.
Just don’t look for Wayne in the credits.