Chris Brecht ďThe Great RideĒ (Dead Leaf Records, 2008)
Excellent slice of that old thin wild mercury sound.
Brecht is a troubadour in the Dylan sense. Wordy, poetic (with nods to the Beats) and existing in a space between Blonde on Blonde and the Basement Tapes. This is a collection of ten songs which, while rooted in Dylanís late sixties sound, stand up on their own two feet and demand to be heard.
The Dylan comparison here is not a lazy shortcut for the critic. Thereís no doubt that much of the music and lyrics remind one of Mr. Zimmerman (thereís even a song about lightbulbs.) However as with the Felice Brothers, Brecht has taken a sound and added his own personality to it.
The album starts in cracking fashion with Night Highway 99 (with some lyrics by beat poet Gary Snyder, Kerouacís Zen buddy) and immediately weíre in 1966 Nashville, the cool, beat Dylan version, no sign of Honky Tonks here. Dead Leaf is another deadpan hip slopealong, the guitars, organ and vocal delivery very much sitting in Dylanís Rimbaud influenced derangement. This sets the tone for much of the album although Readiní My Mind has a more country feel with pedal steel and fiddle although the Hammond organ continues to swirl and eddy around the undercurrent. As the album progresses it reflects the looser and joyful abandonment of Dylan after he fled the limelight. Belle Streets Midnight has a ramshackle live quality to it similar to the boozy abandon of the Basement Tapes. This is even more evident on the following song Absinthe where the lyrics (ďI got some visions but they ainít mine/ I can see the clock but it ainít got no time /across the sky thereís lightning cominí down/ when I look into her eyes but she was nowhere to be found /she likes to put ABSINTHE in her tea and watch the moon all behind the seaĒ) come across like Dylanís stream of consciousness and the guitar is like Robbie Robertson having partaken of some of the green fairy. Proof however of Brechtís potential is on Every Time I Think of Her, a love song of sorts with a sinister arrangement, growling guitar, spooky percussion and a sense of loss in the lyrics and vocals combine to make an excellent song.
Throughout the album the players (including Brad Rice, guitars and co producer) excel. On the closing song By Train, a six-minute tour de force, they lock into a groove that at times coalesces into a near perfect facsimile of the perfect country rock band.
Overall this is an excellent debut. OK, the Dylan comparisons are strong but I reckon Brecht has the potential to go places if he continues in this vein.
Date review added: Sunday, July 27, 2008
Reviewer: Paul Kerr
Related web link: Big Pink