Brian Blake – Book of Life
Focusing on family history that begins in the early 20th Century & brought up to present-day Brian Blake (vocals/acoustic & electric guitar) weaves his melodic tales with a slight Lyle Lovett vocal tone. There’s fine songwriting, pleasant melodies & performances. The title track “Book of Life,” has a Lovett tradition that works well in the framework of this easy-going showcase.
The tunes recall his grandparent’s struggles, changes in small towns, & disabled veterans (the seen & unseen). All music is gently seasoned with Americana spirit. The production is pristine & while it’s a bit alt-country in approach rather than traditional it has the charm & coherency that comes with authentic troubadour resplendence.
The 11-cut, 49-minute CD Book of Life (Drops Nov 18–HWY90) was produced by Walt Wilkins (percussion/harmony vocals) & Ron Flynt (bass/Wurlitzer piano/piano/baritone guitar).
For me, “The Ott Hotel,” is the jewel – sung in a Lyle Lovett style but not in an imitation the song is told in a strict Townes van Zandt form. More commercially viable & with a little humor is the simple upbeat country tune “Meant To Be,” — old-fashioned in custom but modern in approach. Good hook & the interlocking instrumentation is tight.
The difference between Lyle Lovett & Brian is that Brian’s tunes are more accessible & relatable using a similar tonality & pacing. Lovett tends to go a little quirky & which may be the reason for his slow ascension & acceptance in the mainstream. Brian also doesn’t look as “out there” as Lyle did.
The songs were recorded in Austin, Texas & have a fresh rural feel like the air after a spring storm & the sun starts to peek out from behind dark clouds. “New Year’s Day,” is simple & has just the right musical ornamentation to catch a listener’s ear. It has the country commercial gallop without being too sugary & pompous.
If you want to sum up a lifetime the only word that describes its measure is memories. And Brian Blake has pieced together a smoothly produced work that gently explores times gone by using the archeology of Americana. He recalls the past & brings it up to date. Are we better today than yesterday? That’s not what’s being asked. He just wants to see if you remember things the way he did & if it sparked a memory of your own.
“Nothing Gold Can Stay,” is not exactly a rewrite of The Beatles’ “Penny Lane,” but it is a small vocalized Norman Rockwell painting.
Highlights – “Book of Life,” “Rose Marie,” “The Ott Hotel,” “Meant To Be,” “Move on J.D.,” “New Year’s Day” & “Little Boys.”
Musicians – Chris Beall (electric guitar), Rich Brotherton (2nd acoustic guitar/cittern/dobro/tenor guitar, mandolin & resonator guitar), John Chipman (drums/percussion), Bart de Win (accordion) & Warren Hood (fiddle), Betty Soo (harmony vocals).
Music samples: https://brianblakeguitar.bandcamp.com/releases
Color image courtesy of Brian’s website. CD @ https://www.brianblake.net/
Enjoy our previous coverage here: Song Premiere: Brian Blake “Book of Life”
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Nothing Gold Can Stay is the title of a well-known Robert Frost poem.