Andy Griggs’ new all-acoustic album, Naked, opens to the cowboy strum of a Waylon Jennings song. “Old Timer,” a Western-tinged epic, details a man getting back to his roots; a man getting back to the basics and yearning for the foundation of who he is. And more than just a great song, it’s a mission statement about what Andy sets out to do on his first new project in five years.
Through 13 songs consisting of originals and a few of his personal favorites, Andy strips back the layers to a point that can only be described as minimalist. There are no flying guitar solos. There are no back-up singers. In fact the entire album, which is available now, consists of only one man and his guitar with no overdubs. Bearing it all, Naked delivers the kind of intimate, in the room experience that reveals the scars, vulnerabilities and joys listeners can feel. The sad, sad agony of, “Thrown Away,” or the soulful redemption in, “Long Time Coming,” resonate like the guitar strings Andy plays with emotion; soft one moment and shaking the next.
The focus here is on songwriting and the power of an instrument paired with a voice. The dark shades of “Understanding Hank,” where the heavy guitar tones match lines like, Now I find myself on the same lost highway he was on, work together to create stirring atmospheres. The addicted, ¾-time, “You and Cocaine,” and the hunter’s dream, “De’m Boyz,” slip deep into heavy Drop-D tuning while the hidden notes of “Superman” offset the steady chord progression as Andy wonders what it takes to be a man with an impressively soulful touch. And on “Heart Hush” (which Reba included on her 1998 album, If You See Him), the interplay between the steady rhythm of a percussive guitar and a fragile vocal performance is captivating.
Andy covers a handful of his favorite songs on the album, including two originally recorded by Keith Whitley for his 1989 record, I Wonder Do You Think Of Me. “Between An Old Memory And Me,” one of the standout cuts on Naked, is the alienated tune of a barroom loner, while “I Wonder Do You Think Of Me” uses self-deprecating humor to crack a smile through the loneliness. Do you remember those cold football games?, Andy sings before adding with a self-aware joke, I was your hero though I seldom played. Johnny Cash’s “Blue Train” makes an appearance with an entertaining in-studio intro, and the Willie Nelson classic, “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground,” comes across with a tender and unguarded subtlety. However, it’s a cover of a song by Andy’s deceased brother Mason that delivers the album’s most powerful moment.
“Me On His Mind,” the story of a long-suffering sinner thankful for redemption, strikes a nerve with its Southern Gospel undercurrents and incredibly sharp narrative. Andy’s voice weighs heavy singing his brother’s words, and almost breaks down during the line, Oh God I fall on my knees, for a soul-bearing and transcendent moment. It’s the very essence of Naked, a stirring project that reveals all with an unflinching honesty.
Key Tracks – “Me On His Mind,” “Thrown Away,” “Between An Old Memory And Me,” “Heart Hush”