Grace & DeGroot: “Musical Chairs” – the authenticity breaths through the melody, lyrics and vocal approach

Grace & DeGroot, made up of Stephen Grace and Derek DeGroot, bring two unusual things to modern pop music – the saxophone, which Derek has been playing since elementary school, and the fact that they are a father and son-in-law duo – Derek married guitarist Stephen Grace’s daughter, SkyeAnna, in 2012!

The duo’s album “Musical Chairs” was recorded at Michael Daily’s Studio0Four, where it was also mixed, engineered and produced. Michael was also the drummer on the recorded tracks, while Jimmy Culler and George Clark laid down bass tracks, along with keyboard contributions by Charles Altman.

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Grace & DeGroot

Substantially a rock album, “Musical Chairs” also forges some folk and country roots influences across its 11 tracks. I think the album perfectly epitomizes what Grace & DeGroot seem to be about: energy and authenticity. Even in the most reflective, relatively quiet songs such as “Song From My Heart” and “Look What You’ve Done,” there is a drive threaded through the music. It is not only taking you on a journey, there is life in the melody. And the music is a journey, where Grace & DeGroot remains authentic to who they are and their own sound which comes from the classic rock era with saxophones, pianos, organs, acoustic guitars, electric guitars, slide guitars, and all.

While their lyrics typically lead in a direction, there is enough openness in them that you can apply them to your life and experience. Grace & DeGroot doesn’t seem to be moved by the pull of studios, labels or critics. They remain rooted in their organic ‘retro’ sound; the authenticity breaths through the melody, lyrics and vocal approach throughout the album. “Musical Chairs” embodies that direct sound that reaches into your heart and soul…and connects.

grace&degroot-350There is something familiar and yet wildly new in each cut, some will stand out immediately while others will creep in, under the skin, if you will, and leave you breathless with every listen. For me, “How Come Now”, “Look What You’ve Done”, “Just In Case”, “Sometimes I Wonder” and “Song From My Heart” signaled the immediate, ‘I love it!’ – They’re simply luscious, shattering with intensity and excitement, just irresistible.

From up-tempo songs to slower ballads, this album is so well-rounded it’s unbelievable. The lyrics are beautiful, the melodies and harmonies seem to flow independent of one another, led by Stephen Grace’s offbeat, soulful voice, and the instrumental portions, especially Derek DeGroot’s saxophone, adds another key component to several songs.

The duo really seems to have poured every ounce of themselves into this album, and it will not go unnoticed by even the most casual listener, I think. While Grace & DeGroot sound may not be considered trailblazing or entirely unique in today’s ‘electronic-whizzkid’ musical landscape, their infectious sense of melody, great instrumentation and wonderful lyrical imagery, brings back an almost lost art. Put together with the fact that every song on the album has the potential to be an ear worm, makes “Musical Chairs” essential listening for rock n’ roll fans.

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Rick Jamm

Journalist, publicist and indie music producer with a fervent passion for electric guitars and mixing desks !

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