Jefferson Brown is a veteran of the Austin, TX music scene. He’s released The French King Was Decapitated; these six songs make up his first solo album.
I’ll come straight to the point. It’s spectacular. Click the link below and start listening while you read this review. It’s a flat-out great rock record.
Brown sets the scene on “I Wouldn’t Call It Love” with a spoken-word introduction over spooky, rubato guitar. He intones, “well, the human race keeps ticking / But I don’t know / I’d have thought we’d have killed each other by now / I wouldn’t call it love, but it’s more powerful than war.” Off this start, he takes us into a silky smooth, triplet ballad (think “Sea of Love”). Ben Brown’s synths are just right, Mick Flowers’ drums are deep in the pocket and Kathy McCarty’s backing vocals meld beautifully. What a terrific beginning.
“Mutiny on the Bounty” is radio-ready. It starts off with a Casiochord low-fi drum loop (a la Nails’ “88 Lines About 44 Women”) under acoustic guitar. Brown’s just messing with us, though: it kicks into an upbeat, full-band roots-country-folk rock tune with a clever lyric complemented by Tiger Anaya’s tasty trumpet part. You’ll find yourself singing along with the chorus and the juicy backing vocals. It’s a perfect two-and-a-half-minutes (including a bridge!) with a bit of Casiochord thrown on the end as Brown winks at us.
“Melody” brings us a combination of synths and growling Who-like guitars with a Springsteen-like vocal. The lyric would make Joni Mitchell proud: “Look what we’ve done to this country / It’s just a giant shopping mall.” The bells and synths on the breakdown recall a bit of '80s pop.
We get a treat on “Blind by Choice” with Mary Panjoma’s vocals leading off the track and more of Anaya’s trumpet. The story builds over the verse and pre-chorus; the soaring chorus is reminiscent of a good Chris Stapleton song with Panjoma’s backing vocals sending us over the top.
Brother Ben Brown’s piano and Flowers’ drums lock down “Only a Fool Feels They Deserve It” as Jefferson gives us some hope: “It’s only love that keeps us from falling apart”. Barbara Nesbitt’s backing vocals are heavenly.
He’s saved the best for last, “The Woods Are Dark and The River Is Wide.” It’s a sparse, open-chord-and-suspensions acoustic-guitar ballad. The melody is beautiful, and so is the lyric. Nesbitt’s backing vocals are flat-out stunning with a haunting outro. Two voices and a guitar--a song like this needs nothing else. Nor does this album.
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