An admirable effort from one of Canada’s finest lacks lustre without a full band sound.
Graham Brown is a seasoned musician. He has established a reputation as one of Canada’s finest electric guitarists while fronting his band. ‘Spirit and Soul’ was reviewed favourably here in 2021 as “an album of high-quality music that never fails to grab your interest.”
For album thirteen, he puts down his Telecaster and goes it alone. Bill Buckingham continues in the production role. It turns out to be an admirable but lonely furrow he’s ploughing. In an interview with Roots Music Canada, they describe the tracks as utilising just his vintage acoustic guitars, with harmonica added whenever necessary which in reality means harmonica on every one of the twelve tracks. This can become repetitive, as can “Ooh” sung in six of them.
The tracks obviously mean something to Brown, and they’ll undoubtedly mean something to the people he is writing about. Curiosity is aroused in the opening track ‘You Are the Stars’ when you hear Brown’s guitar playing for the first time. ‘Pendulum’ has an almost defiant Billy Bragg feel to it, and the tracks in praise of his father (‘Lucky’) and mother (‘Mercy Please’) are heartfelt.
It’s true too that there’s some fine solo acoustic guitar playing. But without his band, the music loses its edge. Brown says he’s written some rocking band songs and those will be on the next band record. That should work.