Danny Bryant’s new album, a swift successor to last year’s ‘Revelation’, is another platter of predominantly traditional blues. It was recorded live in the studio, apparently. Chapel Studios, to be precise, in my very lovely home county of the ever-beautiful, rural Lincolnshire. I've spoken to many a band who've recorded albums at this quite wonderful facility, and they've all been attracted by the vintage gear at their disposal, as well as Chapel's renowned live room. It seems this was also part of the studio's pulling power for Bryant. And yes, recorded live, with his “regular road band (both four-piece and big band formats)”. There's an admission in the blurb of minimal overdubs, so it's not 100 per cent live, but I'm presuming that everything was tracked simultaneously to capture a controlled live performance vibe of Bryant and his fellow musicians.
The live nature of the recordings might help explain the natural sounding immediacy of Bryant’s licks and solos. There's raw emotion here, for sure, and a more free-flowing nature to his soloing this time around. It's still based around standard blues scales, of course, but he seems to improvise his way around those scales in a way that's in greater synthesis with the feeling of each song. In fact, the solos become, and help create, the feeling of each song, at times. The emotional pivot of each piece, if you will, along with his vocal performance.
Tried and tested blues paradigms have been appropriated across down, mid and up-tempo compositions that never stray too far from their generic foundations. It's the blues, after all, just like it says on the tin, so it would be unfair of me to criticise this for something it's not trying to be. However, there are more adventurous blues musicians out there, pushing long established parameters through their music and having more innovative fun with the tired old clichés. Bryant, on the other hand, is content to embrace the clichés, wears his heart on his fretboard, and delivers both guitar parts and vocals with an engaging passion. He might very well have succumbed to cliché mongering once again, but it's reassuring there are talented folk like him out there in the world who continue to fly the flag for blues traditions in the twenty first century. Particularly when they're crafted and conveyed this well.
There are a few deviations from the album’s generic core - notably on the two poignant ballads that’ve been included, 'Skin and Bone' and 'Where the River Ends'. And it's a poignancy that's explicable by the fact these two numbers are about lost ones (the former, Bryant's father, and the latter, a friend's daughter). The emotions run deeper and rawer in these two. It's heartfelt stuff.
With no expense spared, Ian Dowling (Adele, KT Tunstall) engineered the album at Chapel (with Bryant taking on the role of producer himself); Eddie Spear (U2, Rival Sons) mixed it all in Nashville; and Sean Magee (Gary Moore, The Rolling Stones) was the mastering guy within the walls of the legendary Abbey Studios. The results of everyone’s efforts? Fantastic. And that live rawness and analogue warmth evidently engendered by the Chapel experience have been preserved throughout. It’s another fine album from Bryant, and certainly on a par with its predecessor.
MEANS OF ESCAPE
Review by Mark Holmes
20th Sept 2019
1) Tired of Trying
2) Too Far Gone
3) Means of Escape
4) Nine Lives
5) Skin and Bone
6) Warning Signs (In Her Eyes)
7) Where the River Ends
8) Hurting Time
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"Bryant...is content to embrace the clichés, wears his heart on his fretboard, and delivers both guitar parts and vocals with an engaging passion."