Isaac Graham - Empty Vessels (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Isaac Graham

Empty Vessels (2009)


Singer-songwriter Isaac Graham was fortunate enough to be one of the two main winners for a cover song contest held by Frank Turner. It's a hell of an endorsement to be sure, and as it turns out, Graham's solo full-length from 2009, Empty Vessels, ain't half-bad.

Empty Vessels is a crisp-sounding full-length of marginally punky folk songs not terribly far from the abovementioned realm. While it's not quite as dynamic or exciting as Turner tends to be, Graham understands the potential in stripped-down and acoustic-heavy but still full-band endeavors, clipping his delivery with restraint when needed and picking up the volume and cast of characters when called for–even if it's briefly, like in "Gold and Steel". His vocal delivery remains confident all the way through, though.

There are a variety of methods and arrangements that give the album some necessary flavor, from the elaborate piano playing on "This Old Town" to the jangly camaraderie of the violin-assisted title track. It's sort of like the Franz Nicolay solo stuff, though less theatrical. Granted, that ambition doesn't always work–the electronic beat of "Heat Exhaustion" occasionally sounds awkward and out of place on the track, distracting from what's otherwise a solid and emotional late entry.

While the songs themselves could stand to be stocked with a few more hooks to make them more memorable, this isn't a bad album. Graham's got a handy association–now he just needs to ramp it up to fulfill the inevitably high expectations Graham will be saddled with in time (if it's not happening already).

Empty Vessels