“Take it slow,” Graham MacRae advises midway through his new album, Dundrearies. It’s a good piece of advice, and one that he follows.
Taking a hand-made approach to everything from his songwriting to the album’s artwork (which he drew himself), MacRae has crafted a record of folky, thoughtful, singer-songwriter fare in the vein of Bill Callahan. Building on his 2008 self-titled debut’s introspective musings and acoustic finger-picking, Dundrearies treads similar territory with the addition of electric guitar, keyboards, and more, to create a layered, intimate sound.
The dramas of everyday life are played out in narratively impressionistic songs about fizzled relationships (“Burst Her Bubble”) and the struggles that come with trying to move from one phase of life into another (“Game Changer”). MacRae delivers his thoughts on these and other themes in a plainspoken, tuneful style—tinged at times with country flair, on tracks like “The Papers.” Joined in the studio by David Newton (The Mighty Lemon Drops) and Lee LaDouceur (The Little Ones), MacRae rounds out his original songs’ melodies with gentle rhythms and caps the album on either end with rollicking barroom numbers. The meat of Dundrearies, though, is a downtempo contemplation of loneliness, disappointment, and how to live well.
Pen and paper are never far from hand for MacRae, who spends as much time on his “elaborate doodlings” as he does creating songs. Indeed, Built to Spill appreciated MacRae’s drawings so much that they used them as press photos for their 2009 release, There Is No Enemy, and as cover art for their 2010 Record Store Day 7” release, “Water Sleepers.” MacRae plans to release a collection of his drawings within the next year.
With his slow and steady approach and personal songwriting, Graham MacRae has made a record in a classic style that’s instantly relatable to people looking for personal connection in an increasingly detached and fragmented world.