Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Reviews:: Don Brownrigg - Wander Songs

Don Brownrigg's debut album Wander Songs is an album I meant to discuss here on the hill late last year when it was released. As you might be aware if you were on the hill at all last year, '07 was plenty busy around here, and unfortunately I didn't get to it. That's a wrong I'm happy to right with a review of his thoughtful and understated album.

A native of Newfoundland's Codroy Valley, Don made his way here to Halifax where he subsequently made a name for himself as a proficient guitar and piano player. Once he decided to work on a solo album, he enlisted the help of his talented friends and neighbors, people like Benn Ross (drums, ex. Thrush Hermit), Kris Pope (lap steel, Down With The Butterfly), Jim Bryson (electric guitar), Jenn Grant and Tanya Davis (vocals). These contributions certainly aren't wasted, as for the most part the arrangements on this album are simple, which allows Don's warm voice and clever songwriting to take the lead, while his guests add colorful flourishes along the way.

As a title, Wander Songs suggests an album full of romantic travel songs, and this is true to some extent as many of the songs do deal with that kind of wandering, the actual physical moving we do across distances large or small. But I think, to a greater extent, the title refers to a wandering of a more metaphorical kind. The songs have wistful, day-dreamish quality and they cover the ground most of us tread during our mind-wandering sessions - friends and family (both near and far), love (lost, current, or yet to be obtained), and our place in the world.

Brownrigg opens the album with the upbeat and uplifting In It, which lets you in on his philosophy for life: get out and live it. I'd think the banjo, accordion, foot stomps, and hand claps would be enough to force the most reluctant shut-in out into the light of day. If you were looking for a indie-tinged, non-cliched kitchen party song, this would do just fine. About Her is simply a heartfelt, un-self-concious love song. It feels like it belongs to a generation before our current one, you can almost hear the static from the needle being dropped on the record at the beginning of the song.

The story told in Eggs, of missing someone who's moved to Upper Canada, is familiar and specific to our region, but it could be told from countless places on this continent where people have left smaller towns for big cities. It's a poignant song, made even more so by the addition of Jenn Grant's beautiful vocals and some haunting lap steel. Remember Home is Don's take on a traditional Newfoundland ballad written by his uncles, Peter and Donald Brownrigg. This one will resonate with you if you happen to be a son who has moved away from home, or you have a son that has or will likely move away. I am both, so I'm an absolute sucker for this song.

The force of Tanya Davis' spoken word piece in the middle of Time Moves On contrasts with the ease of Brownrigg's delivery, and it's that contrast that makes this song about trying to forget the past so effective and interesting. The Wander Song is the album's appropriately named, mandolin-laced finale. It's an ode to dreamers and wandering souls that builds into a gallop by the end of the song and features another welcome assist from Jenn Grant on the vocals (I think, not actually sure about this one). It's also a great way to cap a really enjoyable album.

Every now and again I use the phrase "rewards repeat listens" to describe an album, and this album is one the most appropriate uses of that phrase I've come across in a while. Don's songwriting is honest and vivid, so no matter what the subject, you'll find yourself immersed in the song. I know I slept on this album for far too long, so I'd suggest that you have a listen if you haven't already.

web :: myspace :: buy it

MP3:: Don Brownrigg - In It

MP3:: Don Brownrigg - Eggs

January 16th The Alex P. Keaton - London, ON TBA
January 19th Shaika Cafe - Montreal, QC www.shaikacafe.com
January 20th House Concert - Port Dover, ON W/ Rose Cousins
January 22nd The Spill - Peterborough, ON TBA
January 25th Folkway Music - Guelph, ON W/ Rose Cousins
January 26th Cafe Rhythm & Books - Cannington, ON W/ Rose Cousins

Posted at 9:35 AM by naedoo :: 0 comments

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