Chris Brown has been one of my favorite Asbury artists ever since he sent me his 2014 release, Anchor. Brown has also kept a solid work relationship with Bouncing Souls member Pete Steinkopf from that time and into his present release of One More Night, and it’s a relationship that has yielded excellent results. One More Night also includes a plethora of well-known locals such as Charlie Brown, Pete Steinkopf, Eric Cooper, Alex Iannone, Howie Cohen, Zack Moyle, Shane Mazekian, Jed Plate and several others that brought their A game to One More Night.
When it comes to Chris Brown, you’ve probably seen him on the Asbury boardwalk, guitar in one hand, a board in the other. You’ve probably sung along to his crowd-pleasing “Sailin’ With Jerry” or listened intently to the actual stories his songs manage to tell in perfect harmony with the music. Chris Brown (no, not that rapper guy) is a singer-songwriter born and raised in the eclectic city of Asbury Park, NJ. He’s known for his lighthearted yet gripping style of composition. He’s a folky, punky, rootsy guy and he’s damned good at it.
“My songs tell stories. Some of them are very personal while others are fusions of what I’ve seen, heard, or just made up in my frantic mind,” Brown explains. Depending on the venue, and if the crowd gets lucky, his band Last Night’s Disasters will show up to play with Chris as well. Chris Brown writes with heart and plays with a passion that emanates naturally and clearly. His honest and thoughtful songs reflect his experiences in a raw, yet whimsical way.
Having been described as Frank Turner meets Patrick Stump, Brown has performed at venues such as the world famous Asbury Lanes to the highly successful Atlantic City Beer And Music Festival. Brown has been growing his fan base in New Jersey and beyond. He has opened for or has shared the stage with a broad range of diverse artists such as John Easdale from Dramarama, Pat DiNizio of The Smithereens, Anthony Raneri of Bayside, Dashboard Confessional and many others.
Chris released his new EP, One More Night, on October 15 as part of Asbury Underground. It was recorded at Little Eden Studio last fall during the last days of the Asbury Lanes and also when Chris had just found out Mags (his wife) and himself were having a baby. All tracks were produced by Bouncing Souls statesman Pete Steinkopf at Little Eden, and all were mastered by Tom Ruff at Asbury Media.
Chris sent me the tracks, and I wanted to give my opinion on the sound, the players and the overall direction of Chris Brown on his continuing journey through the rock and roll dimension that he has chosen.
First track up is “Gunshots And Bombs.” Featuring harmonica intro courtesy of Charlie Brown, “Gunshots And Bombs” comes off like an acoustic anthem of dedication and unity. The problems of the world come alive with lyrical telling as Brown’s protective promises of friendship and love guard all as the band works its magic behind him. Steinkopf supplies some energetic electric guitar as Jeff Plate whirls organ layers into the back of the piece.
Up next is the EP namesake, “One More Night.” Harmonicas cry out as acoustic guitars bang plaintive rhythms under Brown’s raw and powerful vocal ministrations. Brown’s backing vocal chorus features Charlie Brown, who harmonizes perfectly with Brown. Eric Cooper adds some fantastic cello work as Alex Iannone blends his violin work into the piece. Brown comes off like a modern-day troubadour on this song, and it doesn’t disappoint the listener. Brown’s chorus work is addictive and lush (but not overdone) as Chris tells his lyrical tale of hanging on to the cherished memories of a particular time in all of our lives. Chris told me that this song marks a point in his life where everything started to change from the past to the present, which includes carefree times in the City by the Sea.
“Glass Houses” flies out of the speakers next. Brown’s compositional style gets the point across without getting lost in an overproduced sauce. A lot of that has to do with the production style of Pete Steinkopf, and it’s a great way to get great songs to shine instead of winding up having to polish turds. “Glass Houses” retains that punkish, anthemic feel while providing a field for Brown and crew to fly high and free. Lyrically, Brown uses this piece as a podium of sorts, asking people to take better care of their own instead of tossing them on the garbage heap. Shane Mazekian’s drum work supports the song as Steinkopf handles bass chores and Plate stirs things up on the keyboard.
“The Hardest Part” sings out next. Utilizing the combined talents of Cooper and Iannone, Brown swings into his most alt-country of directions, and it’s a winning piece of music. Chris handles harmonica and guitar here, and that combination brings forth folky, backwoods comparisons to guys like John Prine or Springsteen. Choruses are solid, and the lyrical delivery shines brightly for days. Brown is getting pretty damn good at writing songs that could easily see airplay at several different outlets, and that’s always a great thing to have.
“Never Let Go” is next and immediately becomes one of my favorite songs on the disc. Mixing his passion for writing, playing and performing, Brown’s lyrical vantage point stands out like a beacon in the dark seas of conformity. Choruses are robust and memorable for days as are the tie in bridges and verses. Acoustic guitars clang and clash in rhythmic beauty as Howie Cohen and Zack Moyle supply backing vocal choruses that lift this song into Brown’s hard-earned stratosphere.
Last up is a song that was videotaped live at The Bond Street pub called “Serve ‘Em All.” Brown revs the crowd of drink-hoisting hooligans as he bangs on his acoustic and mans the harmonica breaks. A lighthearted ode to that great Bond Street watering hole, Chris looks like he’s having a real blast and so do all of his friends. The song itself may not be much of a hit record, but as noted before, it sort of marks a period of before, when things weren’t as complicated as they have become down in the park nowadays.
Chris Brown continues to gain fast ground when it comes to his music and the methods he has embraced, and it works quite well in all ways. One More Night is well-written, emotional and full of life, and I know it will work magic for Brown and his continued trip into musical exploration.
You will get a chance to see Chris Brown live as he rolls into The Saint in Asbury Park on Main Street on Dec. 28.
To find out more about Chris Brown and One More Night, head over to chrisbrownap.com.