My past encounters with E D Brayshaw have been in his guise as guitar-slinging collaborator with Wily Bo Walker, on albums such as The Roads We Ride, typically contributing searing, stiletto-toned solos adding to the epic, cinemascope vision. But with his debut solo album Fire Without Water, Brayshaw takes the chance to explore some different musical angles.
Opening track ‘Hadn’t Found You’ lives up to expectations, combining guitar tones of Santana-esque purity with salsa-like percussion and prominent, trampolining bass, to create an infectious groove. Add in his low, groaning vocal and it carries echoes of John Lee Hooker's 'The Healer'
|E D Brayshaw - sepia-toned guitar wrangling|
More surprising though, is that he pitches in with several tracks of a rough and tumble pub rock R’n’B hue. On ‘Say What You Will’ the bass playing – also courtesy of Brayshaw – adds depth to his jangling rhythm guitar, while his solo is brisk and biting. And if his voice is less well suited to this kind of attack, he more or less gets away with it by virtue of his commitment. The later ‘I Hear The Rain’ is in a similar vein, with his growling vocal rather more convincing, like a bass Joe Strummer, and it’s easy to be swept along by his squealing, wailing guitar solo.
These two tracks bracket the more moody, mid-paced ‘When The Walls Come Down’. Gritty guitar chords open up proceedings, before laying back and letting that elastic bass take the strain to good effect. There’s a neat call-and-response style chorus, and some good dynamics as the intensity drops for a later verse, and Brayshaw’s soloing serves the song well, right through to a blistering second foray that really brings the walls down. It’s a well-put together offering, sustaining itself for over six minutes.
‘Said And Done’ takes a different tack, with a vaguely Skynyrd feel, laid back and fluid, with Brayshaw’s guitar striking a sweeter note and mandolin tickling away in the background. He bolsters his vocals by doubling up on them here and there as he opines that “When all is said and done, more is said than done” – though there’s still the odd wonky moment.
The closing two tracks head in polar opposite directions. On ‘Reckless’ Brayshaw goes for broke, with brisk snapping drums, bubbling bass and funkily flittering rhythm guitar the foundation for some ringing, slashing guitar chords over the top and a lyric that declares “My daddy called me reckless, said I’d have to learn to lose”. But ultimately it’s a platform for Brayshaw to go guitar surfing with some aliens, as it were, and he really digs in with some sizzling stuff. To paraphrase Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction, “That’s a pretty fucking good guitar workout. I don’t know if it’s worth eight minutes, but it’s pretty fucking good.” Which just leaves the gentle, lyrical ‘Twilight’, an instrumental tone poem, a crepuscular exploration over twanging bass, rolling piano notes like ripples on the shore, and restrained acoustic picking.
In case you haven’t worked it out, Brayshaw plays virtually everything on this album, assisted only by drums from Lee Feltham on a couple of tracks. And by everything I mean guitars, bass, drums, Dobro, lap steel, mandolin and keys. He acquits himself damn well in all departments too – especially his classy bass playing – while the songwriting explores different angles with some savvy. Fire Without Water may not be flawless, but it’s about as solo as an album gets, and damned enjoyable to boot.
Fire Without Water is available on Mescal Canyon Records now, and from Bandcamp here.