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CD REVIEW:  David Gelman - Undertow

 by: Cyrus Rhodes




Artist: David Gelman

Album: Undertow
Label: Incremental Music

Genre: Acoustic Singer/Songwriter, Sadcore, Americana
Sounds Like: Jimmy Buffet, Dire Straits, 
Richard Buckner and Bertie Higgins
Technical Grade: 10/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 8/10
Commercial Value: 7/10
Overall Talent Level: 7/10
Songwriting Skills: 9/10
Performance Skill: 7/10
Best Songs: Open Your Heart, Take Me Back, Take me to Babylon
Weakness: More vocal risk taking, more harmonies, more solos



Singer-songwriter David Gelman is back with his second solo album, Undertow. Gelman’s influences have ranged from Bob Dylan’s “Nashville Skyline”, the Beatles “Rubber Soul”, James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James” to Ryan Adam’s “Gold.” These influences are evidenced on Gelman’s album. Gelman was born and raised in New York City where he still lives today. Gelman has played clubs in the city such as Rockwood, the Bitter End and the Mercury Lounge.David has brought together again a stellar backup band that includes Ann Klein (Ani DiFranco, Darden Smith), Steve Count (Bette Midler, Ben E. King), Sammy Merendino (Joan Osborne, Loudon Wainwright III). With the help of producer Tim Hatfield (Damwells, Death Cab for Cuties, Steve Earle, Marshall Crenshaw). 

The CD gently takes flight with “Take me to Babylon” a slow moving rock intro piece that serves up impressive solo guitar licks, infectious groove and soulful vocal delivery from Gelman. Track 2 “Undertow” keeps things moving with methodical intro, earthy acoustic  guitar against Gelman’s baritone via thought provoking lyrical content. Track 3 “Sail Away with Me” shifts gears a bit with its rocking-blues guitar, impressive Americana feel that flows and ebbs it’s way through emotional fruition. As the CD slowly unfolds I can hear many musical influences reminiscent of classic Jimmy Buffet, Dire Straits, Richard Buckner and Bertie Higgins. The actual musical format is very intimate, up close: a personal snapshot of the artist. The songs themselves are very naked and personal with messages revealing the highs and lows of life, love, passion and do I dare say life's observations. Overall the catalogue is extremely melancholy showcasing vintage sadcore but brilliant nonetheless. Besides the 4 piece standard you will also notice brief splashes of Piano, Hammond Organ, orchestral strings, cello, mandolin, lap steel, soulful choir type harmonies, impressive guitar licks and solos, all built upon an impressive rhythm section.  The guitar playing abilities from Gelman are impressive nonetheless. Timing is spot on within each piece. I might add Gelman displays a warm baritone, delicate vibrato and strong consistancy. His vocal timer reminds me of a cross between Bob Dylan and Jimmy Buffet. Lyrical content is extremely revealing and thought provoking. All songs cut deep to the core and its obvious Gelman is also a very capable songwriter. From swinging “Take me Back” to rock steady “All I Really Want” to heartfelt “Silver Dollar” and “Come On Over” to smooth as silk "Open Your Heart” this CD has something for just about everyone. The CD ends with Track 12 “Rescue Me” the perfect finale statement for a CD of this caliber.  

It's fair to say Gelman doesn't possess a world class baritone. He plays it safe on all tracks avoiding any serious risks that would showcase a serious world class vocal ability. He's kind of like Jimmy Buffet and Eric Clapton in that aspect and does manage to hold his head above water the entire time. I like the soulful choir harmonies on many songs but I didn't notice any Gelman Harmonies. I also wish there were more extended solo segments throughout.

The music of David Gelman will work best on days you want a delicate, thought provoking and intellectual singer/songwriter sound to fill your atmosphere. "Undertow” is a brilliant, striking and compelling musical production.  Its strong suit is it’s overall consistency, lyrical wisdom and bold straightforwardness of Gelman. Make no bones about it folks; It took raw honesty to write and perform some of these songs. What I like most about Gelman is there is no attempt to hide how he feels, or sugar coat the truth. I really admire artists out there who are themselves and just let the chips fall where they may. Praise goes out to the artist that has the courage to show us something real and genuine beneath their veil of vanity. Gelman is one of those artists. Undertow provides a very real assessment of the human condition. The real selling point for any song is the (singer to listener) emotional connection. Here experienced artists will execute and make this every time. It cannot be faked and has to be totally genuine. At the end of the day people don't buy plastic and paper, they buy emotions. In this aspect Gelman delivers.


Cyrus Rhodes

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