After 13 studio albums, Nashville-by-way-of-Ohio singer-songwriter Griffin House is more “old hat” than “rising star” yet his latest album is titled just that. Paradoxical? Maybe—but Rising Star is shot through with forward-looking optimism, suggesting House is a man pursuing individuation, rising through an outgrown eggshell to embrace a new life.
The storytelling prowess in the title track and subsequent “15 Minutes of Fame” is entrancing. In “Rising Star,” through witty phrasing and a rogues’ gallery of country clichés, House tells the hilarious story of Joe Everyboy coming to Nashville with his six-string and a dream. House achieves tummy-seizing guffaws when Joe meets “Keith Urban in a button-up place/Tried to talk to him, got punched in the face.”
Rising Star’s middle languors in the shadow of “Cup of Fulfillment” which arises from nowhere. Imagine Mumford & Sons covering a Springsteen song written during an imaginary religious phase. Sensuous production and gentle, enfolding structure crescendo into spiritual catharsis more sublimity than dogma.
Following two confusing sonic choices comes “Change,” a duet with Joy Williams (The Civil Wars). “Change” won’t earn House entrée into the Poetic Gardens, but it’s a syrupy bit of dessert that lingers splendidly on the palate.
Rising Star has its moments, but it’s mostly comprised of blasé, unremarkable ruminations on life at almost-40 that wouldn’t sound out of place at a weekday open mic. Not offensive, not discordant, not inaccurate…not anything, really.
SPILL ALBUM REVIEW: GRIFFIN HOUSE – RISING STAR
G. Roe Upshaw