August 11, 2003 12:00 PM

Gavin DeGraw (J)

Critic’s Choice

On “Follow Through,” singer-songwriter Gavin DeGraw begins his debut disc auspiciously: “Oh, this is the start of something good/ Don’t you agree?” Whole heartedly. Living up to the buzz he has been building on the New York City club circuit since 1998, Chariot announces DeGraw as a major new talent who will be around for years to come. This 26-year-old piano man, who composed all 11 tunes himself, brings to mind a young Billy Joel with straight-ahead pop-rock that would have fit right in on ’70s AM radio. Using the same guitars-bass-drums backup trio throughout, the album captures a live-session feel that keeps the focus on DeGraw’s soulful, blues-tinged voice and true-to-life lyrics. Even when those lyrics occasionally dip into cliché (“Girl your body fits me like a glove,” on “Just Friends”), DeGraw sings them with such earnestness that he makes you a believer.

BOTTOM LINE: Hop on this Chariot

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