Album, Single and EP Reviews



  Grace and Trespasses by Joe Croker

Grace and Trespasses cover art

Artist: Joe Croker
Title: Grace and Trespasses
Catalogue Number: Bagatelle Arts
Review Format: CD
Release Year: 2008

Examining the CD package before listening,  your reviewer was struck by the detail and sheer erudition of the liner contents. Accompanying the lyrics are quotations from, among others, Shakespeare, William Styron, the Bible, the Qu'ran, Walt Whitman and Pliny the Elder. What's more, the quotations actually make sense when read in conjunction with the lyrics and the snippets of personal takes on the music therein from the artist and the assorted players.

A hefty accompaniment then to this sprawling expanse of an album and an indication that we are not talking "moon in June" type stuff here. Croker means business and throws in his observations on the war in Iraq, depression, the religious right, slavery, death and occasionally matters of the heart.  With 20 songs and a hefty 74-minute weigh in, this is not an album for the faint of heart. Having said that Croker takes on a selection of styles, wrestles with them and wins on points overall.

Moving from a blue collar country rock style - like Steve Earle or Waylon Jennings - with songs such as "Snake Handling Man" and "Black Diamond" to more introspective and lyrically rich treats ("God, Is that The Word?" and "Brotherhood of Love") with ease, Croker and his exceptionally simpatico musicians (too many to list but a special nod to co producer and player Tommy Spurlock) play a blinder. Some songs spring out, primarily   "Does That Comfort You," that is spellbinding in its surreal lyrics and amphetamined gospel delivery.  Croker occasionally veers close to MOR balladry ("In Another Lifetime" for example) and could do with an editor of sorts to trim the excess fat from this album. Twenty minutes shorter and this could be a classic of sorts.

Available by worldwide mail order from CD Baby.
Review Date: October 8 2008