Brett Noland — Her Name is Angel
Brett Noland is not a name that a lot of people will be familiar with, in fact I was one of those people until I happened to catch his set at Festival of the Red a couple of months ago. During his set, he played several of the tracks off his second studio album, Her Name is Angel. Her Name is Angel (Kindred Records) was recorded at Dirty Bird Studios (Irvine, KY) and was mixed, mastered and engineered by Jason Brakefield. The album was released on all digital platforms on July 31 with the physical copies released on August 13. The Brett Noland band is Brett Noland on guitar, vocals and harmonica; Tyler Woosley on drums and percussion; Dustin Knox on lead guitar, vocals and piano (Sydney Adams/KDKnox); Kellee Knox on vocals (KDKnox); Trent Taylor on bass; John Lovern on bass, and Bethany Hockensmith on fiddle and vocals. Additional guest musicians on Her Name is Angel include Josh Hymer on banjo on “Going Down South,” Jeremiah Floyd on piano, mandolin, and steel guitar (Manitoba Rock and Rolla); and Hip Horns on the horn arrangement on “Mexican Sun Beaming Down.”
Her Name is Angel consists of a total of fifteen tracks. With songs topics ranging from outlaw living (“Leaving My Mountain Heart at Home,” “Cowboys and Indians”) to darker topics like hitting rock -bottom in a variety of ways (“Let It Burn,” “Liar and Thief”) to some very Prine-esque songs (“Be Happy Where You Are,” “By The End of May”) and so much more.
Some of the highlights are:
“Let it Burn,” the opening track which instantly put me in mind of Cross Canadian Ragweed with its opening notes. A song of desperation, a man reaching the point of being beaten down to the point of throwing in the towel. “He lit a smoke and laid in the floor with a book of matches from the drawer. He lit the curtains and closed his eyes, said “I ain’t gonna try no more… let it burn.” Sadly, this is a too often occurring scenario. Whether the leaving of a partner, a body racked with pain, or a hundred other reasons, “Let it Burn” tells one such tale.
“Liar and Thief,” another tearjerker song (there are several), “The kids are doing without, found a cold plate under the sink, but she’s still planning on going out tonight.” “Liar and Thief” tells the story of looking for love, and poor choices. “Only thing she has to show for all the money that was made was a raw nose and a habit to gain. He was just like the rest, he cheated, and he stole but deep down she knew those two were in her soul… and though it wasn’t a priest, I now pronounce you ‘Liar and Thief.’“
Noland channels his inner John Prine on a couple of songs on the album, notably “Be Happy Where You Are” and “By the End of May.” “Be Happy Where You Are” is a rousing number that tells the listener that “You got to be happy where you are, quit dreaming about fancy sports cars. Just look at life, it will take you far, maybe buy the next round at the bar.” Pretty good advice as he continues, “It’s a good day if it’s one above the ground” and “My job ain’t the best but it pays the bills, I ain’t running around stealing just to buy some pills.”
“By the End of May” is the final track on Her Name is Angel and my current favorite track on the album. A slower number about having grown old enough to not keep up a farm anymore. “The old plow has broke its handle, and the hay rake’s bent its wheel… that old tree house finally fell down, and the big pond is filling in. Son, you wouldn’t know this old place if it was thirty years ago. I would be standing right there in the garden with a rake and a hoe… If I was still a young man, I would have it cleaned up by the end of May.” Perhaps the saddest lines of the song are “No more dogs running in the pastures, no more kids playing in the canes. No one setting out on the porch, this old farm just ain’t the same.”
“Leaving My Mountain Heart at Home” falls more into the outlaw sound, almost a slow blues dirge and is a close second behind “By the End of May” for me. Here we find the subject of the song taking to the outlaw way of life. “Those big city lights were too bright for my eyes. What I kept in my pockets helped fill my disguise”. “I’m leaving my mountain heart at home, selling my soul to the devil all alone.” Kellee Knox’s harmony vocals really makes this one grab you and reel you in.
“I started the morning with vodka, switched to whiskey by noon” Noland croons on the title track, “I can still smell her cigarettes, she left this morning to soon. I’ve gave my heart to so many, sold my soul too many times… her name is Angel, but she looks like the devil to me.” This is a haunting song of loving the wrong woman.
Her Name is Angel’s fifteen tracks should definitely have something that catches every listeners’ ears. Noland’s distinct voice coupled with expertly crafted songs with well-written lyrics that grab you and pull you into the songs’ stories make Her Name is Angel a must listen album. Available on all digital platforms now and physical copies available August 13 on Noland’s web site (https://brettnoland.com).