Brad Sanzenbacher’s Dying Old Flower kicks off with the sound of an open road accompanied by fiddle and harmonies reminiscent of a southern family reunion. Brad and Sabiné Heusler-Schick’s vocals intertwine with an ease of siblings even though they’re not. Precise and emotive production and performance by Kenny Schick, with fiddle by Amberly Rosen, provide just the right of power when needed and the just the right of amount of air when necessary. With lines like “I’m tired of living this life on my guard” and a plea for his daughter’s future that “the water she’s drinking is clean and clear”, Sanzenbacher cuts to the heart of our collective angst with life in 2019.
To temper the pain, however, Sanzenbacher displays a sense of hope and humor that shines through. This is especially true on “Let’s Go Write Waltzes,” the EP’s closer, which presents our hero giving up on the hard parts of life and embracing the weird and silly. The song heralds the redemptive power of just saying “f*ck it” and argues that we should “go write waltzes, cause waltzes are easy to write.” To drive the point home on “Waltzes,” Sanzenbacher indicts professional songwriters for their lack of creative spark and adherence to commercial expectations and counters this jab with a rag-tag horn section that sounds like a less-than-well-oiled machine bumping down a potholed dirt road struggling between first and second gear; it’s real, raw, silly, it will bring a smile to your face and make you wish the record wasn’t over.
Sanzenbacher’s writing feels instantly familiar. It presents a simplicity that hides the traditional imagery he turns on its head. “I’ve got dreams down in my pocket, I’ve got change in my head” is more than just a catchy twist of phrase. The line gets at the sorrow and difficulty that comes with giving up on one’s dreams. Someday eventually, for most, dreams go in pocket to be forgotten or ignored as one’s approach to the world shifts. Sometimes expectations shift, sometimes values shift, some people call this growing up. On the other hand to make a dream come true it must be made real and the physical world exists in the pocket not in the head. Change exists in the head once we make that determination to follow the dream made real. Whether intentionally or not, Sanzenbacher captures the subtlety of that universal human maturation at odds with the desire to follow a dream with grace in just a brief thirteen words.
Brad Sanzenbacher’s Dying Old Flower is worth your time and at just seventeen minutes it will leave you wanting more when you reach end. So don’t hesitate to press play again; this release gets better with ever listen. https://bradsanzmusic.bandcamp.com