Album Review: Jeff Brisbin ranges far and wide on “Blame It On Love”
Jeff Brisbin has carved out the embodiment of the so-called lifestyle business here in his post real career years. The fact that it involves the playing of live music doubles the joy in that it also becomes a passion project as well. His night job is now his day job. We should all be so blessed.
A longtime player in Saratoga’s tourist-entertainment economy, the deeply-rooted Spa City native has built his (mostly) solo / covers act of “giving the people what they want” up to an impressive 200+ gigs/year mark. Such a schedule has him at or near the top of the list for anyone doing that sort of counting.
But Brisbin goes deep in another important way: scratching the itch now and then to cross over to that Dreamers side of the music world by writing, recording and performing his own original compositions. That’s where he’s at right now, with the release of his new full album “Blame It On Love.”
This offering – available right now as a CD and on the streamers — is not his first foray into the creative realm. Proof there is 2009’s “Uncharted Waters” and 2017’s “Foreverly“. The latter gained some legs with regional airplay because of both its refined touch and all around studio chops. Credit here went to Brisbin having brought brought in Dave Maswick as the hands-on producer.
Maswick stays on board for this new one, of which the liner displays sole songwriting credit going to Brisibin on all ten cuts. Another nineteen musicians are gathered from the regional talent pool to join the festivities, including Chuck Lamb, Joel Brown, Tony Perrino, Chris Carey, Graham Tichy and other familiar names.
The opener is the title track, a tight and safe, straight ahead blues-rock push with a micro blend of reggae along with a Baker Street sax floating about. While maybe not being the right choice for being either the title cut or the opener, it still gets the ball rolling with no one getting hurt.
I Wish You Enough is a break up weeper and which might have benefited from a later placement in that running order. Covering nothing new and playing to script, it stands as the album’s only true weak point. With only one, he’s ahead of the curve already.
New Years Day rebounds, delving into resolutions and self-analysis leading to a preferred path of self – betterment. Instrumentally, the score benefits nicely from Irish/Celt fiddle of Oona Grady, leading it to claim the lofty position of being the standout track to this whole audio shindig and the one which the parties involved might be advised to now use as the album’s marketing & promo teaser.
The One for Me follows next. Its mandolin picking nicely glides around short piano rolls, lending a Bruce Hornsby feel to the proceedings. There’s nothing wrong with that, thank you very much.
For A Song starts with a part-curious / part-surprise swamp string run, giving way to a guy dishing of his perfectly happy lot in life of slinging tunes and not having anymore deadlines to meet. Hmmmm; who can this fella be?
Always In Key is a bud-shout; reflecting on a life lived properly thanks in part to a locked in friendship, hereby honored.
It’s Just Love is a soft-bounce, Laurel Canyon style country’esque, popster that is dressed perfectly for what we used to call radio. This makes it the most accessible tune on this, an ever-accesssible album.
Ain’t it that Way offers a Motown’ish feel that starts as a big nothing but gets saved by both a catchy chorus and an even catchier bridge.
The Only Feeling Felt resurrects the ghost of Toy Caldwell and his Tucker Boys classic Can’t You See in the opening spaces, but can’t match those strides going forward. The big hook eludes this one; but not a bad effort otherwise.
Not My Business wraps the proceedings in a Chicago blues sort of way, complete with a tasty Hammond float and a well-placed Robert Cray Meets Larry Carlton type of guitar run. A good tune which may have been better with more dirt and grit thrown on it.
In talking with a reviewer, Jeff Brisbin related how he sought to make adiverse, (mostly) upbeat piece of work here which reflected the sounds and innovation of a host of the upper echelon acts that have ruled the charts in past decades. He certainly went into this with many such guides, given the resulting all-over-the map (in a good way) wanderings of styles and approaches here.
These classic names and sounds will, of course , be intimately familiar to a stool hound like Brisbin. His means of paying homage via new material hereby certainly gives him do the right thing cred.
To this listener, the single Influencer that seems to rise above the other in stamping this album might be Mr Billy Joel. That comparison is offered not so much from the expected hearing of similar lyrical approaches, but more from instrument composition and general vibe throughout and as a whole. Yeah, let’s call it the Long Island Sound — even though this one’s coming from an Upstate dude.
In summary; a good piece that makes a nice contribution to the regional scene for the same reason it must have been a blast to work on: it brought together a swarm of the best locals and let them collectively do an original long form piece of work together. That right there we should point to as a case study in how one goes about growing the 518 Scene.
To think, it took a “covers guy” to make that happen!
“Sing us a song, Mr Guitar Man! Now make sure you toss a few of your own into the mix!”