Grandfather Child

Grandfather Child

Fans of the fevered live shows of Houston’s GRANDFATHER CHILD have been eagerly awaiting the group’s first album, and the band’s ambitious and wildly diverse eponymous debut (released by New West Records) may surprise them. Leader Lucas Gorham, a former high school history teacher, was a Black Flag fan when he  happened upon the documentary Sacred Steel , which instantly converted him to the film’s hyper-electrified gospel music. After teaching himself lap-steel guitar, he enlisted a few top Houston players (including bassist Robert Ellis, who’s building an impressive career of his own) and began writing secular songs with a believer’s fervor. Yet there’s a lot more here than gospel underpinnings. The production values have a seventies feel; both the recording and the carefully crafted arrangements have received a Steely Dan–like level of polish. Most songs clock in around the five-minute mark and take their time getting where they’re going, but with the exception of the syrupy closer, they do get there. Time and again, from the simmering soul of “Waiting for You” and “Can’t Seem to Forget” to the Zeppelin-esque “New Orleans,” Gorham brings his band to a slow, emotional boil. Curiously, it’s only the out-of-the-gate lap-steel burners (“… Gonna Have Ourselves a Vision,” “Ride That Train”) that feel overwrought. For the most part, unlike a lot of other singers dabbling in the soul/gospel idiom, Gorham doesn’t try too hard. He senses just the right moment and delivers the goods.

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