Simple. Clean. Honest. Direct. Some marketing or PR hack would try to call it authentic or blue-collar. It’s more than that. It’s the primal acoustic music of John Gilmore, a stalwart of the central Indiana bluegrass music scene. Gathering twelve of his best original vocal and instrumental tunes and marshaling the forces of some top players including Michael Cleveland and David Harvey, Gilmore’s self-produced debut CD Gravity’s Cursetreads the eddies and back currents of bluegrass, folk, Americana, and more with a unique sound and style that many bluegrass fans should love.
As a songwriter, Gilmore’s style weaves a fine thread, linking artists such as John Hartford, John Prine (to mention two prominent Johns) to the hardscrabble poetry of Carter Stanley and other mountain musicians. Don’t be surprised if you catch yourself humming a lick or hook from this CD days after hearing it.
A skilled and tasteful guitarist, Gilmore’s impeccably recorded work on his vintage slope-shouldered Gibson Flat Top here reminds me of the grace and fluid melodicism of Norman Blake’s Whiskey Before BreakfastLP. While not matching that virtuosity, like Blake, nothing John plays is flashy or self-centered. It’s all about laying down a sweet, toneful guitar line that complements the melody of the song and the work of his companion musicians—a rare gift in today’s often self-absorbed musical world. The rest of his ensemble cast, especially Doug Sauter on mandolin and a stirring banjo intro to “One Dark Day” and the stellar Michael Cleveland on fiddle, carefully apply their skills to add gorgeous aural layers to Gilmore’s heartfelt melodies and chord changes.
To be sure, there’s no true bluegrass here. When the button accordion of Rod Schindler comes in on “Lonely Is,” Gilmore’s music sounds certainly more like The Band than the Bluegrass Album Band. But in musical spirit, Gilmore understands that what Monroe and other bluegrass legends did was play the music they felt in their souls, and he is best-served by following the same path. If you want to see where that path leads, you will probably like what you find on Gravity’s Curse. (www.johngilmore.com)DJM