I fell in love with Austin when I saw my first SXSW this year-the people, the food, the vibe, the music. In a sea of talent, the most arresting and memorable set I witnessed, front and center, was Jon Dee Graham.
I'd been hearing about him for years. So I made sure I was up front, with the camera running. His press is deservedly deep, but he's better than all that. His songs leave him, and you, nowhere to hide. The first or second tune in the show was "Swept Away":
Well if you find my car
If a Tom Waits show wasn't theater, if every line and movement wasn't rehearsed and rehashed nightly, then there might be more resemblance to the spiritual grit of a Jon Dee performance. But what I saw that day was riveting in its realness, in its humanity.
His singing was so visceral, his playing absolutely gut wrenching. In the best way. (So lost in the memory, I didn't realize that daylight had arrived; the first car drives by.) He's one of those rare musicians, one of those rare people, where the guitar is truly an extension of himself, an instrument in the vehicular sense. The interdependence of the players on stage made it seem as much like a rescue team as it did a rock band. His persona had a quality that embodied the notions that this was all that mattered, and that it really didn't matter at all.
He does tour some, and plays regularly in Dallas and Houston. But if you get to Austin, look for a Jon Dee show. Or you may catch him with The Resentments; that band includes most of the crucial cast of this record, plus Stephen Bruton.
Jon Dee Graham was voted Musician of the Year at this year's Austin Music Awards. Full is a great disc that comes after three recordings for New West records. You need this one. Check out the audio clips on the Listen page, and our video from SXSW.
a beautiful interview with Jon Dee from last year