Making a fair stab at rivalling Johnny Cash for memorable last works, Canada’s Gerry Griffin presents here a collection of songs written over the last five years or so which are pretty much all washed through with intimations of mortality. These are the songs of a man obsessed with life in the shadow of death, a man determined to make the most of the time left to him. It’s not in any way a seriously commercial effort in that there’s no big tunes, no lush production, no attempt to create a radio hit; it is, however, the sound of a man being true to himself, and this in itself gives Moment to Moment an honest charm that might worm its way into your affections.
The sound is gentle and quiet, Gerry’s slightly cracked voice and acoustic guitar to the fore. He murmurs and wails, comes over like a European folk singer, in fact does pretty much anything with his voice other than sing straight. It sounds quite bluesy a lot of the time – somewhere between some Malian blues and a Native American shaman calling on the spirits – which serves to give mystery and resonance to songs which are essentially quite straightforward. There’s some subtle backing in the sound – credits are given for bass, programming and African thumb piano, whatever that is – and this makes for some gently developed atmosphere, whilst Heather Houston’s understated support in the vocals balances Gerry’s sandpaper voice nicely. In a way, the standout tracks for me are the two that sound like old folk songs; ‘It’s Love That Gets Us Through’ talks nicely about the small, quiet joys of being with the person you love, whilst ‘I’m Going Home’ is the song he’s written to leave behind for those who’ll mourn him, a song of reassurance and peace in the face of death. Both have tunes that seem to lean on something quite familiar. Can’t pin down the first song but there’s ghosts of ‘Hickory Wind’ on ‘I’m Going Home’. In both cases, that sense of familiarity feels like a bonus.
Mostly, these songs talk about love and try to pin down the little bits of magic in the everyday that make you glad to have someone there – and grapple with the age old conundrum of trying to live in the moment, in each moment as it comes along. It’s the stuff you think about as you get older, and old folk need their poets, too.
Footnote: I just checked out the thumb piano thingummy. It's sweet, I want one!
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