Piano keys dance around us to a gentle but unsuspectingly eviscerating beat in “Time on My Hands.” Drums crash into the instrumental entanglement fashioned as a foundational harmony in “Lay Me Down.”
David Gelman circles us with a vibrant vocal like a shark sizing up its prey before going in for the kill in “Fight My Way,” the leering string number “Maybe Tomorrow,” and the signature “Dusty Highway” while allowing for the other components in the music to take center stage in “Let it Shine,” “Stuck on Broadway,” and the pointed “High Road.” From “Once a Part of Me” and its exotic melodicism to the ultra-surreal “Dusty Highway (Instrumental String Quartet)” and bewitching “No Peace of Mind,” there isn’t a stone in the melodic universe that Gelman isn’t willing to overturn in his search for the perfect balance of rhythm and rhyme in his all-new album Dusty Highway, and while he’s intent on exploring his ambitions without facing the limitations some of his less than experimental peers might come up against, his determination to avoid overindulgence makes this singer/songwriter-inspired effort easily one of the smartest alternative listens you’re going to find this year.
Where “No Peace of Mind,” “Maybe Tomorrow,” “Lay Me Down,” and “Fight My Way” each shares the conceptual construction of being driven by aesthetical contrast, “High Road,” the title track, “Let it Shine,” “Once a Part of Me” and “Stuck on Broadway” are entirely different in style and design, but the differences between these two sets of songs doesn’t create as much chaos in this tracklist as one might assume it would. On the contrary, I found the diversity of the material on Dusty Highway to lend immense credibility to all of the narratives presented to us in the songs here.
There’s a smart fluidity to the transition from “Time on My Hands” into “Stuck on Broadway” and “Dusty Highway” that you just don’t find that often in the American underground anymore, and though I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Gelman was specifically trying to compose a straight-up concept album in this LP, there’s more than enough evidence to support the notion that he could embark on such an endeavor and likely produce results just as sterling as these are.
I just got turned on to the David Gelman discography, but I’ve got to say that this is by far one of my favorite listens of the season so far. Dusty Highway demands a reaction out of its listeners through a lot more than simplistic poeticisms and intelligent harmonies alone; through understated elements, like a textured bass part or even the kinship between a beat and the verse it’s shadowing, Gelman finds ways to communicate aspects of humanity that mere words just can’t sum up on their own, and amidst the backdrop of a city built by creatives of all stripes, he’s standing out in 2023 as one of its most intriguing new faces. If you’re in the mood for something a little eccentric this month, there should be no hesitation when it comes to venturing down David Gelman’s incredible Dusty Highway.