Last Surviving Son by David Gelman
The piano aches as though its melody were carrying a thousand-ton burden on its back in David Gelman’s “Presence of the Lord,” the last song on his latest album, Last Surviving Son, but for as passionate as the instrumentation is in this track, it’s really no more evocative an element than it is in the staggering “Set It Free” or perfectly-titled “Soft Surrender,” in all actuality. Gelman brings commanding harmonies into the fold no matter which song we’re listening to in Last Surviving Son, whether it be the angelic melodicism of “Soft Surrender” or the swaggering rhythm of a sexy “In the Sun,” and you don’t have to be familiar with his work to appreciate this LP for what it incontrovertibly is – a humble indie masterpiece.
Gelman wanders into guitar grooves with a childlike innocence in “Let It All Go” immediately after cutting up a breezy beat in the decadent balladry of “The Roads We Didn’t Take,” but the transition from one track to the next in this album is never marred in choppiness. He comes into these two songs with as much emotion as he does the light gallop of the opening bars in “Lonely Tonight,” the blustery chorus in “Wasting Away” and the blue-colored harmony of “Because You Love Me;” regardless of the tempo, the tonality, or even tiered melodies that many artists in the folk genre would just as soon shy away from, Gelman sounds like a self-assured songwriter ready for anything that comes his way, which just cannot be said about his closest rivals in or out of the American underground.
Last Surviving Son catches fire with the hesitation-led melodies of “Far Away” and doesn’t stop vaulting colorful flames in our direction through “Feel Alright,” its title track, and even the whisper-like lyricism of the deep cut “My Vows to You (The Wedding Song).” In every song here, David Gelman invites us into his heart with a meaningful, anti-aristocratic poetry adorning Americana-influenced instrumentation that you don’t find every day on the FM dial anymore, and from where I sit, these thirteen tracks together comprise the most personal of statement pieces he could have fashioned for himself in a farewell to the 2010s.