Garrett Sawyer
"Anthem"

(Garrett Sawyer Music 2001)Garrett Sawyer - Anthem

On the opening and title track of Garrett Sawyer's new release, "Anthem," any notion of what you thought the album might sound like disappears. Based on the album's accompanying information -- which shares blurbs from reviews of Sawyer's first record, "A Happening at Manchester Square," suggesting that Sawyer is a folk musician -- you might expect "Anthem" to be full of carefully crafted acoustic guitar songs. However, "Anthem," would appear to be in a different direction than Sawyer's 1995 debut. Full of seemingly nonstop piano and drum parts and sprinkled with brass sounding instruments, "Anthem" is mostly programmed instruments with Sawyer's guitar and vocals layered on top in a contemporary way.

Sawyer seems to have a lot he wants to say and get off his chest. Each song includes a sizable chunk of lyrics. While his style is most generally storytelling ("I was in my hammock, a favorite book in my hands" from "The Lean Season"), Sawyer also displays a sense of humor -- lines like "And what does God know about running the world? Where did Jesus get his MBA?" ("Black Fire") to the telling "My boss is laughing at me while I'm trapped in this song. I'm trapped in this song. I'm trapped in this song" ("I'd Rather Be Cain") show a sarcastic and bitter side. Delivering a mouthful each track, Sawyer's lyrics serve as the main focus.

And while his vocals could be consistently stronger and the chord changes are sometimes overplayed, moments like the guitar-led intro of "The Lean Season" get you chomping at the bit for more riffs like that. Despite some catchy melodies and a decent attempt, Sawyer's vocals and the programming seem to be heading in different directions (as he crescendos, it remains fixed). In the end, it becomes one of those sometimes all too common cases: "I know what he's trying to do, but I'm not sure how well it works."

C+