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A marvelous time for some “Moondust” — Grady Truchelut’s new album should be in your library and on your stereo

November 9, 2011

One can’t talk about East Texas music without mentioning Nacogdoches native Grady Truchelut. He’s been a part of some of the most influential bands in the local music scene, and he’s collaborated and conspired with most of the others. This fall, he’s released “Moondust,” the follow-up to 2010’s “Subliminal Moonshine,” giving the rest of us another glimpse into the world of one of the area’s most talented, well-rounded musicians.

Maybe it’s because I’m a musical child of the ’90s, maybe it’s because Truchelut is as well, but whatever the reason, one of the first things that sticks out when listening to the record is the sense of familiarity that begins to overcome you. I’ve said before that while Truchelut’s music is a fresh, welcome reprieve from the Clear Channel fodder polluting the airwaves, his songs could also easily fit into any Night Rock playlist on KSAU circa 1993. This record is no exception.

“It Time” starts the album off with twangy guitars and moving baselines. As the floor toms beat their way into the hook, twang gives way to crunch and Trucelut reminds everyone that he knows exactly what an electric guitar is supposed to be used for. He does it again in the solo in case you miss it the first time.

The album’s opening tunes sets the tone (pun intended) for the rest of the record. The sounds Trucelut is able to coax out of his guitar amps are chameleonic. They can be any shade of the audible rainbow, but they always seems to be what is needed for the song at hand. Less is sometimes more, but not when the tones sound this good.

“Hurricane” may only be two minutes long, but it keeps the record moving by building on the feel of the previous hook, all the while smelling slightly of the Ramones, but with more of a full bodied flavor. The bridge kicks things up a notch with a few more minor chords and harmonies that sound as if Truchelut were channeling Layne Staley.

Trucelut brings out the acoustic guitar for “Dust and Snow” and drastically scales back his electrics. The verses feel like roadtrip music as the as they waltz along, darkening up just enough in the chorus to not lose the feel. The syncopation at the end of the hook is a nice touch as well.

“Master Plan” seems the perfect transition between the previous track and the short acoustical tribute “Gavin’s Song.” It’s basically Trucelut turning it up to eleven and saying, “By the way, in case you forgot …”

The ballad that serves as the album’s title track begins with a faraway riff and then booms into being as the instrumentation fills out for the verse. Although he keeps this one all electric, Trucelut once again displays his ability to mix Pearl Jam and pearl snaps.

“Sunspots and Moonbeams” brings listeners back to Trucelut’s bread and butter. You could spend time trying to describe it to death, but the bottom line is: It’s a great song (and you should be ashamed of yourself if you don’t have it on your iPod).

Trucelut favors the piano on “Goodbye Star” which always yields an interesting twist for any songwriter. The verses are straight foreword enough, but where the song really takes flight is in the chorus, where he gleens the feel of Hall and Oats’ “Rich Girl” without actually copying them. And like all the previous tracks, when the guitar solo comes in, the tone is new, different and perfect. Truchelut keeps it simpler than most of the other parts on the record, but he plays to the song, and it works.

“Phase One/Phase Two/Sonic X” is hands down, my favorite section of the record. Trucelut blends the end of his record as if he were a DJ.

With “Phase One,” the descent into the album’s finale begins. The acoustic makes it’s return, but this time it’s further away from its previous alt-country performance. The tweaked out stomp boxes float just beneath the surface as the overall sound slowly becomes darker. By the end, falseto harmonies drip wet with gated reverb over a lone piano, leaving the the listener with a very Terry Reid vibe.

You might not realize “Phase Two” has actually started. Even though there’s a break in between tracks, Truchelut continues the melody from the end of “Phase One,” bringing in an instrumentation so full, David Gilmour would be proud. The second section features a repetition of the lyric “drifting away,” which makes a final appearance later on.

As “Phase Two” fades into the sounds of an evening in East Texas, you almost forget that you’re even listening to a record. And as “Sonic X” begins, Trucelut somehow manages to abruptly bring in an ’80s drum loop without it sounding abrasive or out of place. It’s brilliant, and it sets up the album’s closing track perfectly. Afterwards, he’s able to bury spooky synth pads underneath the acoustic bounce while bringing in ’50s Sci Fi accents and have it all sound natural and necessary. Trucelut’s soft, slow vocals during the outro are almost a reprise of “Phase Two” as they sit over a sad Rhodes piano and eerie synth voices, making for a somber end to a solid record.

Songwriting and musicianship aside, there’s something to be said of the album’s sonics. While the record sounds good either through headphones or in your car, It was a joy to slide up the master fader in my home studio and let the monitors brag about Truchelutt’s seasoned ear and skill as a master of the mixing console. You could say that the sonics have a Radiohead kind of quality … everything in its right place.

Supporting local music will always get you a thumbs up in my book. Sometimes you even get some good music out of the deal. Picking up a copy of Trucelut’s “Moondust” would be one of those times.

For more information on Grady Truchelut and his music, visit gradytruchelut.com and fastactingrecords.com.

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