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Brett Dennen
Hope For The Hopeless
Downtown/Dualtone Records
www.brettdennen.net


With an album title like Hope For The Hopeless, singer-songwriter Brett Dennen presents himself as a perennial optimist to the point of making you want to be one, too. His album is rich in a country-folk fare relatable to James Taylor, and soft calypso-swaying pendulums that sound like a lot of fun to swing from and let consume you. Produced by John Alagia, Hope For The Hopeless brings audiences in touch with themselves and the world around them in a way that washes away any fear they may have of what they will find.

Dennen confronts societal and private issues without reservations like in "Heaven" when he tells folks, "Throw away your misconceptions / There's no walls around Heaven / There's no codes you gotta know to get in / No minutemen or border patrol." In another time, these words would have been interpreted as blasphemous, but in Dennen's songs, they appeal to a person's intelligence and sense of logic. His lyrics show a sense of judgment which has a prophetic meaning at times and offers the misguided some guidance. The folksy musings in the tune roll off of Dennen's tongue so easily that they feel like an integral part of his nature. Dennen is prolific at crafting songs that have country-folk esthetics and balmy-pop motifs traveling in smooth flowing lines. The comfy rhythmic pulses of "San Francisco" and "Make You Crazy" engage the listener's sense of harmony, and have a way of making life feel a lot more pleasant. There is a genuineness in his songs that makes it safe for him to be honest and candid with his emotions, and it entices the listener to do the same.

The relaxing currents in the acoustic wavelets of "So Far From Me" make for a soothing bedding that cradles Dennen's ruminations with caressing strokes, "Today I walked without you / Like an empty bottle drifting out to sea / I would change if I knew how to but it don't come that easily / If my heart wasn't such a jungle, maybe you wouldn't feel so alone / If your heart wasn't such an ocean / I wouldn't sink like a stone." The songs reflect over past pain and try to heal those wounds using the tenets of folk and country. Dennen's tunes offer company to those feelings of loneliness and entrapment, but are still searching for an opening to contentment. His vocals have a coarse resonance like driving over the rough, bumpy terrain of a dirt road, but the melodic textures of his songs are pristine and assuage the hurt that peels away the skin. It sounds messy, but life is messy and Dennen does not run away from that in his music.

Hope For The Hopeless is an inspirational effort on Brett Dennen's part, using bolts of country-folk and balmy-pop reflections which regale in his melodies as he brings his messages to the public. Like many folk artists, Dennen's songs speak from the pulpit of protecting individual rights and defending oneself from injustices. His songs are multi-fold, making sure to sound melodically cohesive and also having significance in other people's lives. It's an album that inspires peace in relationships and solace for everyone.

-Susan Frances

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