sub-morphine alt-country songwriter

Chris Brecht’s debut The Great Ride was one of my favourite albums of 2008. With a mid sixties Dylan feel and a beat sensibility it was a fantastic example of how an artist can take a genre and re inject some vigour into it. After a fairly lengthy wait here we have his second offering which while not as exhilarating as The Great Ride shows a fine progression while retaining much that was great about the first album. With his band, Dead Flowers getting equal billing here the sound is expanded so that while there are still rambling rockers such as Living Twice as Hard and Devil and with the rollocking ride that is Not Where You Are, a direct link to the previous album Brecht is now using a wider canvas with the sound more expansive with some fine organ and pedal steel throughout the album.
The opening song, Hollywood has some of the ennui and faded grandeur that graced some of the more obscure early seventies LA albums by the likes of Terry Melcher and Gene Clark with the mock orchestral opening perhaps lampooning the string arrangements that were usually present. The song has a fine sense of drama and some fine pedal steel from Ricky Ray Jackson. The pedal steel indeed snakes throughout the album but not in a country sense, much more like the colourings added to late sixties, early seventies rock bands like The Grateful Dead or even the Stones.
On his webpage Brecht ponders the Dylan comparison’s he has evoked stating “I wanted to make a record that sounded like an acoustic social club that toured by freight train in 1922.” However there’s no getting away from the comparison when listening to Don’t take It So Hard which contains the very essence of Dylan in his pre motorcycle crash days. An excellent song. Brecht doesn’t sound like Dylan nor does he even try to but the music and the delivery are in thrall to that time. As good as this is Brecht gets even better with Blue Thunder, a song that is epic and understated at the same time with muffled percussion and crashing waves of sound.
Although the band excel throughout the album the stars of the show are Brecht’s lyrics and vocals. He inhabits a space vocally that is worn and weary, an old head on young shoulders. His words reference writers and poets, are reminiscent of Ansel Adams’ landscapes and find poetry in everyday circumstances.

Why Brecht is not better known is a mystery but it’s early days yet and he has the potential to leap into at least minor stardom. Whether he wants that or not is another matter. On his website he offers trenchant thought on his albums, his music and life in general and overall has a fine handle on his life.

Thoroughly recommended for anyone interested in Americana music.

Chris Brecht and Dead Flowers-Don’t Take It So hard by paulk

http://paulkerr.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/chris-brecht-and-dead-flowers-dead-flower-motel/

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