Gavin DeGraw penned Free in less than two weeks and had released it around 10 months after his second album, the self-titled Gavin DeGraw, on March 31st 2009. His first two albums had really stood out to me as the best i’ve heard from any male singer-songwriter, so could Free be another to add to my collection? On the first listen, simply no. It can’t be compared to the other two, but I found it almost disappointing when I first heard it, with no track standing out very well. But, and this is a big but, as i’ve listened to it more, i’ve started to appreciate it for what it is. So if you enjoy it on your first listen, then brilliant. If not, don’t give up on it just yet, I’d say it’s a grower.

Indian Summer is the first track, and it’s a different start to what we’re used to. A slower arrangement, and not the instruments we’re used to. It’s a more simpler arrangement. Similar to the likes of Chariot (Stripped). This gets better the more you listen to it, with a slight bluesy feel to it.

Free is next, again with the slower tempo. You get the feeling that this album has a relaxed feel to it, as we’ve had a more up-tempo kind of DeGraw that we’re used to. The song picks up towards the second half, as Gavin plays with the notes of the song, using his falsetto that we’ve become accustomed to, to great effect.

Stay follows and was scheduled as the first single from the album. The song is centered around the piano rather than the guitars. In my opinion, I think it was the incorrect single choice for the album, as it seems like it doesn’t fit in well with the rest of the album. The song is just okay, but it feels like a reject of the previous album.

Mountains To Move is next, and follows the same pattern as the first two songs. I’d probably say that the song was forgettable, as it feels a lot more like background music. But it depends what mood you’re in, because this song would be great if you just need to relax while reading a book or a quick nap.

Glass follows and I’d have chosen this as the first single. Even though it’s not an up-tempo classic, and usually isn’t great to start off with a slow song for your first release. It’s my favourite off the album and definitely positioned in the right place to bring you back in favour of the album after the previous track.

Lover Be Strong is next, and isn’t the most perfectly melodic track we’ve heard from him, as some of the notes feel like they’re not quite “there”. The chorus structure is well thought out and I like the idea of what he decided to do. But something doesn’t quite feel right.

Dancing Shoes follows, with a lovely little piano intro which I could hear over and over. This is actually a really good track, DeGraw’s voice and just a piano is perfect for this album. His voice and piano playing work in unison to produce this great track.

Waterfall is next and has a “Mountains To Move” feel to it. The track has a chilled out feel to it, but it really picks up in quality towards the end, with DeGraw going into his upper range which we’re greatly familiar with.

Why Do The Men Stray is the last track on the album, and it polishes off the slower, chilled-out feel to the album. This track almost feels like DeGraw has a sore throat, and he’s whispering the song to you, but his voice is tuneful along with the acoustic guitar, so we can forgive him for that.

Overall, Free wasn’t what I was expecting. I thought we’d been spoiled by the prospect of another album so soon, but this album feels like it’s “one for the fans” with just him and his piano or guitar. I definitely prefer it more now than I did when I first heard it, as I was a little disappointed to begin with. I would have given this about a 3 before, but it’s grown on me, so i’ll award it a fair 6/10.

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