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An Alt-Country Antidote to a Bad Day

In Austin, Tex. -- a town full of hotshot instrumentalists and singer-songwriters competing to inherit the halo of the great Townes Van Zandt -- being voted "Musician of the Year" by the locals means something. Jon Dee Graham's gravelly voice is perfectly mismatched with his tenderhearted songs, in the process drawing natural comparisons to Tom Waits. Alas, in spite of stints with big names in L.A. and Nashville, Graham has missed out on the national success he deserves.

Though Austin music remains best known as the spiritual ground zero for alt-country, the space Graham inhabits on the new Full leans more toward rock -- it's a little more searching and a lot more spontaneous. The album was recorded in two days without much electronic futzing about, and "Something Wonderful" exemplifies that delightful simplicity: It's a deceptively straightforward rocker with few lyrics and a subtly textured and infectious arrangement.

"Something Wonderful" provides a hummable reminder to be on the lookout for the moments of goodness constantly unfolding in coffee shops, on noisy buses, and in airport lounges. Graham doesn't get out of Texas much these days, but that's okay. His latest work travels well.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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David Brown
David Browne is a contributing editor of Rolling Stone and the author of Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth and Dream Brother: The Lives and Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, Spin and other outlets. He is currently at work on Fire and Rain, a book that will track the lives and careers of The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young during the pivotal year of 1970.