Erik Brandt “Green Eyed Alone” (Mercy Recordings 2006)
Solo album proves to be career high
After more than half a dozen records with the Urban Hillbilly Quartet, Erik has decided to strike out on his own, as he says, with less fiddles and more piano. Making the point by opening with a solo piano piece that seems to more closely resemble Uri Caine’s eclectic classical take on Americana than anything usually reviewed on these pages (Caine’s bending and stretching of genres, the clash of contemporary and classical, turtableism and Mahler is just as relevant to Americana as anything else – rant over), he soon gets back onto the tame horse of Americana with ‘Shooting Star’ which sounds like Varnaline with added harmony vocals (courtesy of Tim O’Reagan). ‘Just One More Time’ has the feel (not the sound) of early REM with its chorus of beautifully layered vocals, meandering guitar lines, moments of coalescence and looseness. The banjo drenched ‘Thousand Heartaches’ is firmly in the heart land of Alt-country (and not far from dropping the Alt) loss, melancholy, tear sodden atmospherics rank with damp crumbling front porches, lovely guitar work all summed up in the lyric: ‘you don’t have to be absent for me to miss you’.
The solo piano interludes scattered through the record serve as pools of respite and bring the songs into relief - the electricity that pulses through ‘Dent’ again reminds me of Varnaline (who in their early work were one of the few bands to fuse alt-country with space rock). Here though tough swirling keyboards thrill like a fairground ride, gaudy and exciting. Some of the songs do tend to stay at home in the Americana heartlands with curtains closed but when he does let the light in, it really burns. ‘The End’ brings everything to a satisfactory close - fat fingered piano notes reverberate, and what sounds like bowed guitar fritters around like the skirts of angels, the vocals like dust motes caught in coloured light from stained glass windows; a glorious hymn to love, this is the true spiritual centre of Americana - all this and beautiful packaging too.
Date review added: Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Reviewer: David Cowling
Related web link: Artist Website