Essential New Music: Richard McGraw’s “How To Suffer”


Richard McGraw’s latest comes bound in a black cover with embossed gold lettering, illustrated with distressed photos that could’ve been taken at any time since the invention of the camera in 1826. It looks like a hymnal abandoned on a pew after a funeral. That impression is confirmed by the album’s songs, laments that mourn the loss of love, youth, comfort, joy and, ultimately, life.

The music is solemn and low key with dejected cellos, moaning slide guitar and somber, churchy organ dominating the desolate landscape. McGraw’s lyrics are full of bleak, desperate poetry, and his singing is just as subdued, the spectral whispering of a man about to give up hope but somehow still clinging to the feverish dream of salvation. There are a few lyrical missteps that break the grim spell he’s casting, but most of the songs drive home his message with a muted power.

—j. poet