Grace & Trespasses
Two accomplished producers and a slew of musical heavyweights combine forces on Joe Croker's eerily expansive 'Grace and Trespasses'-Croker's third full-length release, his first in four years. The songwriter's trademark eclecticism is on broad display. From the haunting opening track, set beneath the azure cope of Greece, to the rock, blues, and folk accents of British and American locales, Croker takes the listener on a journey that is both geographic and metaphysical. Think Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor meets Flannery O'Connor-all through the mouthpiece of a Midwestern balladeer. Bob Dylan/Lucinda Williams road veteran John Jackson shoulders the lion's share of the guitar work, being joined by Bonnie Raitt sideman George Marinelli. An A-list of Nashville session players fills out the sound, including bassist Byron House (Robert Plant, Sam Bush, Buddy Miller, Susan Werner), drummer John Gardner (Al Cooper, Dixie Chicks, Billy Joe Shaver), and keyboardist Eric Bikales (Tom Waits, Mike Post). Production credits are split between Austin-based maestro Tommy Spurlock (Chip Taylor, David Olney) and New York producer Cliff Goldmacher (Tom Kimmel, Heather Rigdon). Reviewers are hard-pressed to pin a label on Joe Croker. The range of his interests on 'Grace and Trespasses' demonstrates why. On a CD in which matters of sin and redemption are never far from hand, Croker contemplates topics as varied as terrorism, Pentecostal religion, the Bush administration, racism, the afterlife, clinical depression, rapture, and marketing. Croker likewise assumes a number of voices: they include that of a truck driver, a snake handler, the young Octavius Caesar, a religious skeptic, a guilt-saddled dipsomaniac, a mad-as-hell anti-jihadi, and an effete social critic. As Cozmic Debris reviewer Shaun Dale has said about Croker's work, "There is a topical element to some of the songs, reminiscent of the populist appeals of Springsteen or Mellencamp, but Croker's range of styles and subjects makes most comparisons less than apt. He's an original in the best sense of the word.'