The work of folk-rock purveyor Grey Watson is steeped in the familiar rhythms of late ‘60s and ‘70s Laurel Canyon-era artists such as The Byrds, Neil Young and The Mamas and the Papas – although he does add in a scattering of more modern indie rock influences. His music is sensitive, melodically complex and thrives on personal connections, resulting in a sound that seeps into your bones without calling attention to itself. It approaches a host of weighty narratives with a grace and subtlety that is all too often forgotten by other artists who favor a banal and simple sentimentality over an expression of honest emotion.
Built into the broad world of his inspirations is an awareness of the effects of various geographies and experiences. Originally from Birmingham, he moved to South Korea for a time before taking up residence in New York City. And it was upon this relocation to NYC that he parted ways with The Visions, a band with whom he’d performed for many years. And while the ending of this collaboration could be seen as something detrimental, it did produce one last song which was released two weeks ago.
“Spinning Wheels” is a gorgeous folk song filled with shimmering guitars, loping melodies and percussion that seems to spiral around your head. Watson’s expressive voice is quickly intertwined with a handful of spindly electric guitar lines, creating an atmosphere of ethereal tones and twangy rhythms. The song is lifted immeasurably higher when the strings come in, lovely shivering things that cascade upon your senses with a pastoral ache and internal elation.
And though, musically, there is a gentle sway and ramble to the song, its lyrics highlight darker existential fears while referencing the myth of Sisyphus. Watson takes a hard look at the consequences of sustained effort leading to no result and of the relevancy of one’s pursuits. And though the words cut deep, there is room for hope and for a tentative confidence that things will work out alright, with the struggle itself being seen as part of that positive movement. We push forward regardless, and there can be beauty in the hardships we overcome.