First laugh, first grin, and that small dimple on her chin croons Brown in ‘Two Hearts Keeping Time.’ Sure, it could be a love ballad about, well, first love. It could also be a much older married couple reflecting on their past and recollecting that first date. The fact that both works equally fine is the brilliance of Brown’s writing. He tells us a story without names, without dates, without an immediate tie-in that could both date the material or make it less approachable and too specific. Sure, some artists get away with that- the ones with a huge name and the interweaving ability to paint a specific yet also relatable story of immediate understanding. Brown takes the opposite approach. He composites a quick tale and lets us as the listeners fill in the blanks of what this means.
His 11 song opus ‘Beginner Mind’ is an exploratory fairy tale of real life. Brown teases us with the very real fairy tales we see every day, in the married couple on the beach celebrating their 50th Anniversary to the man broken on the sidewalk because love took him astray. These are both moments of deep reflection. We live in a weird world. Brown tries to make sense of it by looking at the small things. And by keeping his stories vague, we can implant our own impressions about this weird world and potentially come to the same conclusion as Brown. Despite its weirdness, it is beautiful.
Brown tackles this in his own weird way on ‘Fox News (Jesus Help Us),’ a lambasting of media’s bloated importance and inability to do its job. ‘Get Your Fill of Feelin’ Hungry’ successfully shows appreciation for Brown’s ability to play an instrument and experience this world, a natural happiness that comes from just being ‘here.’ It is a quiet song, measured again by a consistent guitar line.
Jay Brown covers the basic overlying parts of humanity. He writes often about family and togetherness, with enough clearness to know that these things do not always last. Brown also loves time, or loathes it, depending on your perspective. He keeps sifting back to the past in a very deliberate fashion. These moments where the wrinkles were less pronounced and the attitudes less jaded. He is clearly a simple instrumentalist. The primitive approach has Brown often spinning through the same metronome guitar lick.
It is hypnotic if you allow it to soak in and grab you.
Fortunately, though Brown is a simple songwriter he is not a lazy one. He perfects a lick and runs with it, keeping the listener unabashedly induced by the story being told. It is a writing style he does well. If the songs were too dense, perhaps they would take away from the lyrics and the ‘point of it all.’
Ryan Merkel is a cool writer guy and contributor all over the internet, from blogs on music to magazines about music to sites about playing music. He is currently founder of SunState Investing and is head editor of the music entertainment magazine, CultureTease. He has written two novels, and is currently working on a third full-length novel, surprisingly, not about music. His novel “Splatter the Noise” earned accolades for independent publishing. Be sure to check out: www.sunstateinvesting.com
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