It’s rare that I review CDs (before or after they are released). Mostly because I’m not a trained music critic/theoretician, nor a musician either. When I read reviews, they’re usually covering things I wouldn’t think to say, nor would I necessarily feel comfortable saying them even if I thought of it.
So why bother reviewing this as-yet-unreleased CD? Because it’s worth it! Last Thursday we saw Jesse Terry play a show at Rockwood. Bryan happened to be in the audience and happened to bring a CD to give to Jesse. When Lois asked him whether he had some more on him, he did one and we bought it.
The last two lines of the post about Jesse’s show were:
Lois already listened to the CD and was blown away. I’ll be getting to it over the weekend.
Now that I’ve listened to it five times, I concur. End of review.
Well, perhaps I could be coaxed to say a few more words…
The overall umbrella genre/feel of the CD is straight up Rock. By that, I mean no artificial DJ-like sounds to show off techno-wizardry, just excellent musicians making music.
That said, there is quite a variety of rock styles across the songs, including Classic Rock, Country Rock, Jazz/Swing Rock and perhaps a hint of Bluesy Rock thrown in to fool you. A couple of the songs could easily be in America’s Country Countdown, in my opinion.
All of that is actually secondary though, seriously. What separates Bryan from the pack are his (apparently) effortless lyrical masterpieces (song after song).
The lyrics are simultaneously sophisticated and simple. Huh? What I really mean are they are sophisticated but simultaneously accessible. Big words aren’t used to impress (and force us to look them up), they’re words that are more unexpected that paint a vivid image.
Since Lois and I are drawn to great lyricists, we know a lot of them. One problem that occasionally arises is that the songwriter will fall in love with a phrase, but can’t quite fit it in smoothly with the current melody and beat. The truly greats rework one or the other to make everything feel so natural that you wonder what came first, the lyrics or music. It’s like a marriage made in heaven.
If you couldn’t tell from the above paragraph, Bryan is in the latter category. The lyrics are so perfectly intertwined with the music that you can easily listen to every word while still getting completely lost in the music. Nothing jars you out of the trance with a phrasing that clearly doesn’t fit, no matter how clever it is.
I hesitate to pull out any specific lyrics. First, songs are contextual. Second, as specifically noted above, these lyrics are delivered married to the music (not that they aren’t also poetic in the stand-alone sense). Still, I’ll do it (under protest). This is the last verse in the song 3 Years On:
I have murdered minutes
But still there’s so much precious time to kill
The boy that she left waiting
I do believe he’s waiting for her still
I wrote her a letter on a stone
I don’t think I’m ever coming home
I’ve murdered minutes too…
One of the advantages of buying a physical CD is getting the liner notes (when an artist bothers to include them). We have all of the lyrics written out and Lois listened over and over with the lyrics in her hands and she continued to interrupt me while I was writing about Jesse, to tell me this line or that line that kept getting to her. Now I understand.
I’ll wrap up by saying that this CD was produced by Chris Cubeta. I only saw Chris perform for the first time last Wed night, but I’ve heard about what a great producer he is for a while (specifically with regard to the upcoming The Vanity Belles CD), and now I hear his work first hand.
For example, on Marlene, which has a lot of Swing elements to it, the use of the clarinet (Hideaki Aomori) fits perfectly. On other numbers he employs a trumpet or accordion (Michael Leonhart and JP Schlegelmilch respectively).
OK, I’m drifting into the territory that makes me uncomfortable, so I’ll just stop here. Come to Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 at 7pm on April 6th and judge for yourself. Bryan will have physical CDs for sale there, so you can then experience what we’ve been enjoying for the past five days!