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April 2024
Vol. 23, No. 7

CD Reviews

GRAMPADREW: Greatest Hits

by Bart MendozaMarch 2024

A mix of Americana, folk, and classic country, Greatest Hits is the long-awaited second full release from grandpadrew, aka Drew Douglas. Six songs, including a previously released single “I.B. Local” (2022). Produced by Jeff Berkley, with the exception of that vintage track, it’s an all-star affair with Berkley playing guitar and banjo, pedal steel from Benn Zinn, harmony vocals from the likes of Chloe Lou and Julia Sage, cello from Erin Browder, and more.

It takes a lot of confidence to call your second release Greatest Hits, but then again, grandpadrew’s first effort, Cut from the Same Cloth (2012), scored an SDMA nomination for Best Local Recording, while also garnering significant press and radio play. As we prepared to go to press, it was announced that Greatest Hits is nominated for Best Local Recording at the upcoming 2024 San Diego Music Awards.

The approach to Greatest Hits is obvious. Put your best material forward, your best songs, and, potentially, you have a collection of hits. That’s what we have here, songs that are already favorites for grandpadrew. Let’s start with the production. The album sounds great. Berkley is a wonderful producer, but, in particular, he has a way of working with acoustic guitar-based performers that is special and is in full evidence here. He also contributes stellar guitar work.

The music on Greatest Hits itself is eclectic. The album is especially strong in the lyrical department; each song tells the story well. The opening track, “California Doesn’t Want You,” is a slow-strummed acoustic lament, topped by heartfelt vocals and lyrics dealing with the current state of affairs in the titular state. Meanwhile, “Rainbow Puppies” reminds me a bit of Jim Stafford in its opening, a tale of personal growth, with an infectious, wordless shuffle that works as a bridge and a catchy chorus to make it a good candidate to be covered.

My favorite song here is probably the one previously released single, “I.B. Local,” produced by Christopher Hoffee (Truckee Brothers) and featuring drummer Matt Lynott as well as trumpeter John Meeks. Close in sound to a Johnny Cash, mariachi-inspired tune, circa his early 1960s “Ring of Fire” era, its lyrics about life in Imperial Beach hits home. Indeed, the song would have been perfect for a Homegrown album.

“Smoke Show” is also a lot of fun. An up-tempo tune, with a stomping beat and a bit of a kitchen sink approach to instrumentation, there’s a lot going on in the backing track. The sort of tune you’d play with a batch of your friends on someone’s porch. That it’s topped by a bit of tuba says it all.
The album closes with a haunting track, “Who I Am and Who I Want to Be.” It’s an introspective tune, literally describing what two people can mean to each other. “If you were a boat, I’d be your anchor,” it is a touching sentiment.

Greatest Hits is a good Sunday morning record. While these tunes certainly work well in a crowded barroom, it’s an even better listen when you can fully take in what Douglas is singing about. As much as I like what the band is playing, for me what makes it all work are his words. This isn’t moon / June stuff, you can tell from his first sung note that Douglas believes in these lyrics; he’s lived this life.

Fans of Americana will find grandpadrew’s Greatest Hits to be an essential listen, the biggest caveat being that at six songs, it’s too short. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait another 11 years for a follow up!

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