Critics have been abuzz over the release of David Gelman’s third full-length studio album, Last Surviving Son, since it debuted last April, and it doesn’t take more than a cursory listen of its closing track “Presence of the Lord” to see precisely why. In the gilded keys and swaggering lead vocal dispensed by Gelman, an ocean of emotionality is married with exquisite piano melodies that linger in the air long after the song has ceased to play. The magic isn’t isolated to this immaculate, gospel-tinged ballad though; in the loving single “My Vows to You (Wedding Song)” (which was also made into a magnificent music video as well), our attention turns to the vitality within the harmony that Gelman forges with his guitar. We find a similar exposé in the understated “Soft Surrender” and surreal “Wasting Away,” the latter being the more groove-centric of the two songs. From one track to the next, there’s never any interruption in the steady flow of the music, which often sounds as if it were being played exclusively for us in an intimate, close-quarters performance.


“Let It All Go” sways to a soft folk rhythm and spills right into the bluesy “Because You Love Me” without skipping a beat. Next to the black and white tonality of “The Roads We Didn’t Take,” these two songs shimmer like diamonds catching a fresh morning light. “Lonely Tonight” has a rebelliousness underscoring its confident spin that gives the midway portion of Last Surviving Son a bit of adrenaline that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. I think that when we strip this album down to its nuts and bolts, there’s only a couple of components that make repeat appearances, with the honeysweet singing of Gelman and the tuneful lurch of the bassline being the most obvious. It would seem to me that he went out of his way to make this treasure chest of tracks as diverse as his influences are, and I think that you could definitely make the argument that this is his most well-rounded and anthological album yet. He’s pushing the boundaries between country and folk as far as he can in “Soft Surrender” and the title track, and somehow sounding less like a halfhearted hybrid artist and more like an inventive experimentalist than anything else.

“In the Sun” is the most provocative song on Last Surviving Son, but it doesn’t overpower the more straightforward “Set It Free” or “Feel Alright” in the slightest. When I first acquired a copy of this record, I must have listened to its opening salvo – “Far Away” – at least three times in a row before moving forward in the album. In this track, Gelman teases us with a muscular strain of Americana that will leave the dissatisfied country music aficionado feeling a lot more hopeful about the future of the genre than they did prior to indulging in its erudite melodies, and I think that it captures the spirit of the LP that spawned it better than any of the other songs do. This record encapsulates a breakthrough moment for David Gelman, and if you haven’t already, I’d make a point of giving it a go the next time that you’re in the market for new music.


Sebastian Cole