Brady Enslen Beautiful Things www. BradyEnslen.com
North America is blessed (maybe overly blessed) with singer-songwriters. While there are no doubt many who should give up the dream and get on with life, in my experience most of those who get to the level of recording an album have more than a little something to offer.
Listen to WDVX’s Blue Plate Special some morning (or, noon if you are in the eastern time zone) to hear what I mean. Almost daily, they feature an artist I’ve never heard before, and most always I hear something that makes me say, “Yup, he’s (or she’s) good,” or “Now, that’s a fine line.”
Not every singer-songwriter I hear is going to become the next Clark (Guy, Jay, or Brandy), Erelli, Peters, Kane or Welch, but more often than not they can offer insight into the life we find ourselves living.
In Alberta, there are dozens upon dozens of singer-songwriters (fools on stools, I think some have been affectionately dubbed) sharing their stories, witticisms, and musicality with anyone who’ll listen: Buckley, Wort Hannam, Dunn, Moreau, Stack, Coffey, Hus, Lund, Williams, Hawley, Pineo, Patershuk, Johnson, Albert, Nolan, Shore, McDonald, Vickers, McCann, Stagger, Gates, Wylie, Tyson, Phillips, Masters, Bourne, Purves-Smith, Davis, St. John…the cross-generational list goes on and on.
Add Brady Enslen to the list.
“I best be on my way…to better things…before the light goes away…and I lose my way” is the chorus that closes Beautiful Things, and it is a fitting coda.
From Drumheller, Enslen doesn’t get overly fancy on his debut release Beautiful Things. Produced by Winnipeg’s Scott Nolan (himself no slouch in the singer-songwriter department) this album features a core band interpreting Enslen’s songs in a manner that maintains focus on the singer and his songs.
Enslen and Nolan keep things relatively simple. The songs come in at under five minutes, and the musicians—including Matt Filopoulos (lead guitar,) Eric Lemoine (pedal steel,) Ashley Au (bass,) and Dan Bertnick (drums)—are unobtrusive, colouring the songs with just enough sound to accentuate Enslen’s insights.
Enslen’s songs are filled with longing and place, usually simultaneously. “Drive,” the album’s lead track, captures this theme with ideally: “We’ll drive until we can’t drive anymore,” the song closes after dreamlike escape over prairie, through mountains and trees, to the ocean’s edge. “I went looking for a place to hide,” Enslen sings in “Lonesome Winds,” and one senses that he may still be seeking shelter. Certainly, nothing is resolved by the time a mother abandons her children to survive on their own for the summer (“No Whiskey For Mama.”)
Like many, Enslen walks that fine line between having lived his songs and possessing the power to create believable, relatable scenarios. “It’s like you get to the end of a page, and you don’t know how you got there,” he sings. We can relate. We’ve attempted to imagine the land without barbed wire fences, been lost at night, hearing the coyotes’ serenade, and appreciated our ‘beautiful thing,’ aware that we are unworthy.
Brady Enslen has created a brilliant disc, one that is entirely enjoyable on its own merits, but one that also hints at greatness to follow. Folk, country, Americana, singer-songwriter…however label it, Beautiful Things is a success.
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