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Gerry Spehar Gerry Spehar
Album: I Hold Gravity
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 10

Having turned his back on a thriving music career to focus on his family thirty years ago, Gerry Spehar has decided it's time for a comeback. A fair few things have changed in the interim, Spehar's ability to craft a memorable song not being one of them. Working in tandem with his late wife Susan, the album charts their last travels together with stories spanning L.A. and Lubbock and characters that include ranchers, veterans, wrestlers and lawyers.

With a band that includes I See Hawks in L.A. providing the rhythm section and slide guitar, he kicks off in electric, rocky form with 'Dirt', a numbers rooted in his family's past as miners and ranchers as he sings about homesteads growing around rich seams of coal and oil and the toil of those involved encapsulated in the refrain "shovel till you hurt."

The sweat and struggles of sraping a living loom large, 'Muleshoes Mules' (the title a nod to the Texas high school football team perhaps?) a hoedown stomp about heading out on the interstate to California away from the drought to work on the vineyards while 'God Lubbock' is a fiddle-graced bluesy number reminsicent of Steve Earle about working in the dust bowl where "heat rises, time slows, 110 in the shade, ride that tractor, till those fields, sweat pours, pitiful yields."

'How To Get To Heaven From L.A'. again contemplates trying to survive in the city, with "a mother with her children tryin' to stay alive" and "the limbs, the falls, the ups and downs", offering the whatever gets you through advice in "go seek absolution everyday in your own way."

And, if it's not working on land, it's on water, although things seem a lot more laid back out with the oyster fishers hauling in their catch on the simple acoustic 'Here In The Pass' that shares its sensibility with Guy Clarke.

Spinning different sort of stories, 'Be Nemanic' is a loose limbed dirty blues swagger about a pro wrestle that serves as a portrait of the hard-nosed immigrants who built America and standing up proud to prejudice while, on a more playful note, 'Mr & Mrs Jones' rides a Hammond backed funky blues groove in a narrative tale about getting revenge on the smug Joneses of the world. The best of the character driven numbers though, and arguably the album stand out, is a complete switch of style with 'Holy Moses Doughboy' which, set to a military march beat and calling to mind both Mickey Newbury and Warren Zevon, recounts the story of a WWI veteran who, mentally scarred by his experiences, became a paranoid survivalist in the 'Red Menace' scare.

The two remaining songs are both very personal, the title track a dreamy dance shuffle unadulterated confession of love for his wife while the album closer, 'the mid-tempo acoustic Into The Mystic' is not a Van Morrison cover but about that moment when music called him to leave the "the mud on your sleeve" as he "surrenders to the sound he found." Surrender here is a victory, not a defeat.

Mike Davies