Michael Brett is a musician that remains far in the background when it comes to pomp and circumstance. He doesn’t get involved in the drama and you can catch him on many stages at any given point during the month. His demeanor is as laid back as his music, which speaks louder in solitude than most songwriters through a full band. Michael Brett also has a firm grasp on getting the story across without dull repetition or extra accompaniment. Simple, direct and picturesque, Brett excels on his new CD, Some Kind Of Solitude. With a voice that fits somewhere in the middle of a Stan Ridgeway or Michael Stipe, Brett is an interesting study in maverick singer/songwriters. He has figured out the art of having something interesting to say without stepping on the foot of tradition or borrowing too much from any one genre.
Some Kind Of Solitude is a wide-open set of songs. With minimal contributions from some of the areas best musicians, this self-produced disc delves into life’s dysfunctional nightmares and triumphs with the zest of the rare and unfaded troubadour.
The disc starts off with “More Than The Crumbs,” a socially charged ode where Brett sings, “Give them more than the crumbs/They deserve the cake and the icing too/They deserve as much as you do.” The talented Melissa Anthony backs Brett well here. He taps out the breaks on his acoustic and keeps the fanfare to a minimum while the lyrics do the talking. Good start.
Track four is one of Brett’s best, and my overall favorite. It’s called “Fishing,” and it has nothing to do with sitting under a tree by a stream with a pole. It’s the stark tale of the lost soul and the deep, dark, tail-chasing journey of addiction. Brett’s simple line is shockingly effective as he sings, “I’m going fishing, cause fishing stops the pain/I’m going fishing, fishing for a vein.” Fingerpicked acoustics are warm and full, and the single guitar accompaniment works perfectly for Brett’s great vocal and desolate subject matter.
“Labor Day” explores the last great summer hurrah. The firefly activity of kids and that last gasp of freedom on the swings before the school year reclaims them. The fast-forwarding good time of family gathering in the house and yard, the burgers and corn, the sounds of a social celebration. “Labor Day” is a breezy and detailed description of one of America’s favorite holidays. Brett has a sort of Jimmy Buffet-meets-John Prine vibe here with his detailed and easygoing descriptions that never once leave the listener bored or wishing for the end. Actually, this song is like the end of summer, you really don’t want it to go away.
“Let The Show Begin” is a minor key ballad where Brett once again shifts his style and melody, reminding one of the late, great Warren Zevon. Brett’s knowledge of lyrical construction is unchallenged here as he slips into precise imagery and irony, tearing away the cover of revenge and exposing the regret and redemption from the gurney of a strapped-in killer on his way to the afterlife. Sheli Arden is featured on drums and Melissa Anthony is back on this cut as well. Her harmonies fly mourning dove high above Brett’s desolation twang.
Another top tune is “Good Things In My Minivan.” Utilizing background electrics, drums and bass, this is one of the only band cuts and it’s a laid back keeper. Brett’s harmonies are countrified and backwoods good, and the overall song has a Levon Helm quality that retains the original acoustic idea with just a touch of smirking, humored elegance on top. It’s anyone’s guess as to what “good things” Brett has in his mini-van, but to me it could range from prescription euphoria to stereo equipment. Hey, it’s the listener’s call here and its wide open to interpretation.
“Old Ghosts” explores the sounds of cutting words from the past, breaking glass and the art of putting one through hell. The counting on one’s possible soul mate, the pacifists of anti-evil and the unreliability of old spirits, both past, present and future. Great little acoustic lead and drum work courtesy of Moon Motel, another alumni of the George Wirth School of “less is more.” Brett’s tone is very Counting Crows here and I like the lived-in feel of the composition. Faded and torn, the song is strong enough to blow through the minds of the listener for days on end.
“The Crowd” is another Stan Ridgeway-meets-Bobby Strange-vibed tune that gives an inspired look at the fading star. Brett pulls no punches with the reality of the music business here as he lays it out with, “Ignored on music row, you’re someone that they used to know/Cause when you try to get a cut, their doors are always shut/ They’re afraid to tell you, they want somebody new.” Walking bass courtesy of “Miami” Ken Bash and the percussion and banjo work of Mitch Atrebel make this song memorable and celebratory. It takes the listener on a fun, tumbling ride through the song. “The Crowd” is an outside-looking-in views and pinpoints the reality and horrible odds of discovering anything good in the entertainment business.
“Jubilation Park” alludes to the political trick of the buzz. Getting folks caught up in the moment. Boisterous cheers send up the flag-waving excitement of a social reality that was once just a dream. The harp work of Caleb H. Mitter pushes this reminiscent time capsule into American folklore without sounding like every other clone on the Asbury boardwalk.
Containing 14 songs in all, Some Kind Of Solitude unveils a seamless continuity and outstanding lyrical content from a writer that has lived a lot more than many would ever know. Michael Brett is an unassuming performer tutored in the desolate and stark styles of local masters like Bobby Strange, George Wirth, Keith Monacchio and Rick Barry. But he’s also proved that he stands on his own when it comes to what’s in his own mind. Some Kind Of Solitude is thinking mans record filled with simple instrumentation and melodies that will appeal to those listeners that are looking for more than just generic love songs and three-chord pop. For more information about Michael Brett and Some Kind Of Solitude, head over to reverbnation.com/michaelbrett.