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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
Label: private / independent
Time: 11 tracks / 40:24
Scraps of Grace, by Beggar, is one of those quiet little releases that offers a good, solid listening experience, but runs the risk of getting lost amidst the Big Releases from the Nashville Music Machine. This privately produced CD offers eleven tracks of ‘Jesus Music’ rock and roll that’s refreshingly free from the posturing and pretensions that characterize much of what’s currently on the market.
Although there’s a good strong ‘band’ feeling to the performances on this album, it’s surprising to find that ‘Beggar’ is actually Scott Jibben performing all instruments and vocals, and doing so with credibility and skill, and just the minimum of help on the fourth track, “5:46,” where Al Berven helped out on drums and percussion. It’s Jibben, in fact, who wrote the songs, recorded, engineered, mixed, mastered and produced the project – I’m willing to bet he was also the caterer, but that’s pure speculation on my part… Jibben has a good instinct for writing a song, and a good amount of skill and sophistication in his playing, especially in his guitar work. Lyrically, the album explores Biblical themes, and issues of faith and life as a believer.
“Structures of Stone” starts off the album with a catchy acoustic guitar rhythm-riff that quickly goes into a reggae-like chorus, accompanied by snappy percussion and interrupted by an impressive keyboard flourish. Jibben’s instrumental and production skills are shown to good effect on this opener and throughout the collection of songs. Lurking somewhere between pop and rock, the songs are interestingly structured and inviting, avoiding clichés and managing to throw in little surprises before running their courses. Much of the album is up-tempo, but there are a few songs that slow the pace down a little, like the thoughtful “Born In Heaven.” The album’s title track is a particular treat, featuring a tribal-sounding drum part, innovative guitar lines, and very ‘cool’ octave-apart vocals in a musical stew that really cooks – quite a tour-de-force. Jibben knows how to create a hook, and there are many throughout Scraps of Grace.
This is an impressive first effort, especially considering that it’s a true solo-project. It might have been a good idea to invite an ‘outside hand’ in the production department to tighten up the over-all sound. If there’s one weakness in the album, it’s Jibben’s tendency to go just a bit flat in his vocals, most notably on songs like the otherwise excellent, “One Body,” and “5:46.” This seems to be a characteristic of his vocals, even though there are moments where he stretches his voice to good effect. It would be interesting to see how the performance would change in a more ‘live’ environment with other musicians present to bounce off of.
Beggar is a good concept,
and Scraps of Grace is a good project that hints at even greater
By Bert Saraco (www.myspace.com/expressimage
…add half a tock if you can hear past the occasionally flat vocals.