A collection of autobiographical thoughts, feelings and experiences making this an infinitely listenable album that resonates deeply with Grace’s ordinary, humble, delivery being utterly compelling.
‘Alive in America‘ is British singer-songwriter Henry Grace’s debut album. And, for the purposes of context, it seems the last song, ‘Sierra Skyline‘, is possibly the best place to start with this one.
‘Sierra Skyline‘ is about moving to America, which Grace did some nine years ago. The song is charming, telling of his time of reckoning, a time when he knew he needed to make significant changes in his life. A subtle harmonica adds resonance to the apparent sadness of the lyrics. However, Grace’s time in America was far from sad. He lived in California, working as a musician whilst studying literature and transforming, as he says, from a British folk singer to an Americana songwriter. After five years, he returned to London, from where he now writes and tours extensively.
The opening song, ‘Midnight Sunset‘, is inspired by the 2016 Oakland riots he witnessed. It is a powerful, lively song, redolent perhaps of Razorlight and Coldplay. All the while, however, Grace’s vocal is effortless with a well-worn warmth. One theme of Grace’s is to explore his early battle with depression. His move to America enabled him to overcome this battle, and he writes his recollections of these difficult times in songs such as ‘Junkyard Junkie’ – check out the beautiful guitar! – and ‘Little Radio‘, which it would seem describes a cry for help.
Influences can be tricky to keep in perspective. Comparisons to Springsteen have previously been alluded to, and he would undoubtedly seem to be an influence in ‘Tennessee Dust‘. Musically the song is hugely competent and exciting. On the other hand, phrases and the harmonica outro style are perhaps a little borrowed here and there. Another influence would seem to be David Gray. It is a lovely song, but the sound and style of ‘Too Close‘ are just, well, perhaps a bit too close to Grays, really.
All that said, Grace proves he has a great sound and style of his own with the majority of his songs. ‘Other Side of Heaven‘ has stunning vocal quality. Dreamy yet sharp. Worn-in but fresh. ‘Can’t Be Your Lover‘ is a break-up song, on the front foot and ending with a lovely guitar break. Then there is ‘South By West‘. Grace indeed finds his groove with this song. Stunning imagery, a beautiful melody and mature yet straightforward lyrics.