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  Gravity, Grace, and the Moon 
Artist: Jeff Talmadge 
Label: Bozart Records 
Length: 13 tracks/ 49:21 min. 

It does not get any better than this fourth release from Austin singer-songwriter Jeff Talmadge.  Gravity, Grace, and the Moon is a tour de force of immeasurably well-crafted songs that envoke the most time-honored elements of the folk music tradition.  Filled with unornamented melodies and homespun, ironical lyrics, Gravity, Grace, and the Moon is hands down one of the best folk albums of the year. 

The genius of this album is how Talmadge makes profound what sounds so simple.  In this record, his gentle, self-assuring voice envelopes you like a security blanket as it drifts through an acoustic dream world of tunes telling stories of regret, reminisces of lost loves, and travelers on the highway seeking to get their way back home.  At times forlorn and at other times pensively hopeful, Gravity, Grace, and the Moon will touch either side of the emotional spectrum.   

An appropriate start to the record is the melancholy “Photograph,” which dispenses such wisdom as “You can miss what you miss/But a miss is a good as a mile.”  Evoking the boundless vistas of his native Texas, Talmadge is big on the highway imagery.  In a trio of tunes, “Interstate Blues,” “Little Dress,” and “Beyond the Headlights,” we are assured the road will led us home, although sometimes it might take a while to get there.  The happy-go-lucky “Beyond the Headlights” let’s us know “You don’t have to see beyond the headlights/Just to find your way back home.” 

“Chasing Grace” is a perhaps the most poignant tune.  With its sweet electric guitar hooks and toe-tap tempo, this song explains "You didn’t deserve a thing you got/But you got it just the same.”  Conversely, the heart-sick “All the Things That She’ll Miss” is a mournful dirge augmented by a lamenting violin and quiet acoustic guitar that tells another story: a beleaguered lover’s wish for what might have been. 

“Rose Tattoo” is another gem in an album that if full of them. Talmadge uses vivid imagery in describing how (as is the continuing theme on the album) “Well you can’t explain God’s choices/Can’t get back a day that is gone/It’s best if you get out of your own way.” The final track “I Held a Penny” has the classic country feel with meandering bass, mid-tempo beat, and, for some variety, a little accordion.  In a fitting conclusion, Talmadge’s final words of wisdom are “And you can’t find what isn’t lost/And you can’t lose what isn’t yours to lose.” 

Featuring a stellar cast of guest musicians who never up-stage the real star and the fine, deft producing of Bradley Kopp, Gravity, Grace, and the Moon could quickly become your CD player’s best friend.  Talmadge’s vocals will also help you get through many of those long drives that he talks so much about.  Buy this record if you have any, even the slightest, interest in the folk and country sound.  Gravity, Grace, and the Moon will help “Austin’s best kept secret” become more of a household name. 

Noel Lloyd   1/17/2004

   
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