Danny Bryant’s blues are often pretty heavy, man. Heavy but, it has to be said, often heartfelt. And when he gets it right, this can result in something emotionally truthful both lyrically and musically.
The prime example here is ‘Skin And Bone’, which follows on from some of the songs on his last album Revelation in contemplating the death of his father. Low key and built on the simple strumming of acoustic guitar, it’s painfully honest about loss. It’s up close and personal stuff. And I can tell you from experience, it hits the emotional mark.
|"Say cheese, Danny!"|
Pic by Rob Blackham
Nothing else reaches that level, but ‘Where The River Ends’, written some time back for a friend who lost his daughter, features some lyrical, Clapton-like guitar in places. Meanwhile the closing ‘Mya’ is an instrumental exploration that benefits from being a bit more laid back, and less tense than yer typical Bryant arrangement, giving his guitar space to soar more freely as he builds a theme in – again – a Clapton-like fashion. I’m reminded that on Revelation some of the best moments, for me at least, were those when he began to mine a Clapton seam, such as ‘Shouting At The Moon’.
In a different vein, the title track ‘Means Of Escape’ benefits from revisiting (so to speak) the riff from ‘All Along The Watchtower’, creating a supple vibe, and over the booming drums Bryant does a good job scattering licks around the place, before delivering an impressive solo on the outro. And even if the lyrics are a bit gloomy apart from the affirmative chorus, Bryant’s vocals sound a mite more relaxed than is his wont.
And there’s the rub. Danny Bryant is rarely, to be honest, a little ray of sunshine. And this tends to transmit itself through a variety of stomping, grinding, heavy blues outings, characterised by some teeth-clenching vocals. Opening track ‘Tired Of Trying’, overtly influenced by his mentor Walter Trout, is typical of this tendency, and though it does feature some muscular soloing with a degree of tension and release, it’s overlong. The following ‘Too Far Gone’ is a smidgen more relaxed as it opens, with some nice rolling piano notes, and for a while it reminds me of the kind of gutsy fare the Nimmo Brothers might serve up. But it ends up getting a bit overwrought, and the vocals get too angsty for my taste.
‘Warning Signs’ is a slightly looser affair, with jabs of horns prefacing a useful organ solo, and ‘Hurting Time’ finds Danny dusting his broom on slide guitar, in slow and measured fashion, with some horns and a nice piano solo to leaven the recipe. But these don’t do much to alleviate the sense of stomp-grind pervading much of the album, which is generally reinforced by Bryant’s idiosyncratic tendency towards vocals that to me sound physically tense. And if I were to offer up a sample of lyrics from across the album, you wouldn’t find many sunny moments.
Danny Bryant does what he does with commitment and intensity, and sometimes seizes your emotions as he does so. But all in all, Means Of Escape would benefit from more light and shade in terms of words, music and rhythm. Hell, even Walter Trout and Eric Clapton, who haven’t had their troubles to seek, write some upbeat songs. Discovering a broader palette would serve Danny Bryant well.
Means Of Escape is released on Jazzhaus Records on 20 September.
Danny Bryant's October British tour dates can be found here.
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