album reviews

Brett Dennen
So Much More
Dualtone (2006)

California folkie Brett Dennen seems to have taken a page from the book of Jack Johnson: His latest CD oozes with a casual surfer-dude breeziness reminiscent of his Hawaiian counterpart. Even as he ponders human behavior on his album's opening track, "Ain't No Reason," he sounds carefree rather than out to change the world: "There ain't no reason things are this way / that's how they've always been and intend to stay / I can't explain why we live this way / We do it every day."

Dennen also shares a sounds-like-a-woman vibe with British rocker James Blunt, but whereas Blunt croons with a sensitive falsetto, Dennen's gravelly voice sounds like Billie Holiday singing Tracy Chapman's blues. That blend fares him well: As he bids farewell to depression on "So Long Sweet Misery," his vocal texture gives him a guarded maturity well beyond his years, giving an eerie believability to his plea, "Forgive me if I fall asleep / I haven't slept in centuries."

At times, Dennen veers into a more derivative sound; the reggae-tinged, slow-paced "Because You Are a Woman" sounds one breath away from slipping into "No Woman No Cry." But more often, Dennen sounds miles away from any worries; the album-closing "Someday" showcases his lighthearted guitar playing and happy-go-lucky attitude.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 26 January 2007, Page WE07
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