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Brett Dennen
So Much More
Dualtone Records
www.brettdennen.com


Brett Dennen is a truly inspired poet. He can put words together in ways that make loose sense, yet sound very different than anyone else might put them together. His somewhat rambling style is endearing and makes for a pleasurable listen, unless you pay attention to what he's talking about. On his latest release, So Much More, Dennen incites contemplation of current affairs, love, and the darkness that comes bundled with life, but does it all with a panache that urges the listener to think and feel beyond what the daily doldrums inspire. This is art.

Album opener "Ain't No Reason" is a challenge, relating snapshots of life in a way that creates introspection and a thoughtful re-accounting of the world that surrounds us. The song is based on a beautiful finger-picked guitar rhythm and Dennen's weirdly compelling voice. When I first heard Brett sing, I assumed he was a woman, and his voice still reminds me of an old-school, blues singer (less raspy, but think Nina Simone or someone like that)… regardless, his voice is very distinctive and draws the listener in easily to pay heed to his little observations. Lead radio single "There Is So Much More" builds the sound a bit more, with rolling drums and a very deliberate rhythmic statement and a dark reflection on the world around as Dennen leads the listener through his own inner contemplations.

There is something intimately familiar about the music on So Much More, and as the album progresses it becomes clear that Dennen has the same ability at crafting pop songs as the inimitable Paul Simon. The songs echo with the same kind of easy grace that so much of Simon's music has contained over the decades, creating a sense of familiarity and wonder that adds even more power to the songs. The easy Calypso feel of "Darlin' Do Not Fear" drives this point home like no other, with a guitar line reminiscent of some of Simon's finest… which is not to say that Dennen's music is derivative in any way, but that the influence is obvious. The difference between honor and imitation is obviously in one's ability to sound similar, but retain one's own distinctive sound and voice, and Dennen does that in spades.

The songs on Brett Dennen's latest release So Much More showcase his keen songwriting abilities and brilliant musical abilities. Dennen's songs are highly lyrical, filled with observations on the world around and the inner workings of the spirit, accompanied by an astute musicianship that is easy on the ear and heart. This is a rare musical package; the songs cause deep contemplation of the world's state, while inspiring the spirit to soar with joy and a sense of wonder at that same diverse and wondrous world. Like history's great works of art, Dennen's So Much More causes the human spirit to soar higher than daily life would normally allow, reminding us all that life is a majestic and wonderful gift.

-Embo Blake

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