I’m alone but I’m not lonesome
Never one that once was winsome
Not too handy or too handsome
But I sure do like to play some
and I can be a fool
Lose the plot and lose my cool
I lose my keys but not my conscience
Tell me do you really want this? “(I Think I) Hit My Limit”
Yes. A resounding, Yes. I want this. I think you will too.
Desolation Sounds, from Edmonton-based Ayla Brook & the Sound Men, advances the all-encompassing, roots rock blend of the veteran musician and his latest outfit. Musically, the album doesn’t appear that different from (I Don’t Want to Hear) Your Breakup Songs of a few years ago, a recording I need to better explore. The ‘songwriter on a stoo’l Brook resembled a dozen years ago when he first came to my attention on the equally interesting but entirely different After the Morning After is revisited only momentarily.
Nope, Ayla Brook & the Sound Men are hanging out at the outer edges of roots rock, the fertile ground of Lucinda Williams, the Drive-By Truckers, and their diverse like. Desolation Sounds is actually more than a little like what I have wanted every DBT album to resemble since about Brighter Than Creation’s Dark—rockin’ with a keen country edge and most importantly, featuring interesting songs and intriguing arrangements and vocals.
Working with producer Terra Lightfoot and mixed by Jon Auer (The Posies) certainly doesn’t hurt; I’ve long known one needs to surround oneself with talent to reveal one’s talent. Desolation Sounds captures a modern interpretation of a broad range of the influences that shape Ayla Brook & the Sound Men. Heck, their take of Leon Russell’s “She Smiles Like A River” may out-do the original. “(I Think I) Hit My Limit” echoes downbeat Del Shannon, “A Little More Light” and “Lift You Up” reveal shades of Josh Ritter and bombastic power pop of the Marshall Crenshaw-Dwight Twilley variety. Good stuff then, and still completely original in execution.
Hooks abound. Give a listen to “All I Wanted to Do.” Man, that is slick, but in the good way: the harmony chorus of “Ooo, Ooo” gets me in a special place. With music as exciting and driven as this, you are bound to find yourself singing at the top of your voice of a “Cheap Microphone and an Old Guitar,” like “Lift You Up,” another song of a musician’s never-ending need to hit the road, damn the returns.
Fellow resident of the Pothole Capital of the Prairies Kimberley MacGregor duets on the very nicely executed, top 40 (circa 1985) co-write “Floated So Far.”
Brook takes a look back at his previous incarnations with the beautiful and tender “Love & Laughter” and the emotional “Refuge Cove”—father-son parting elegies don’t get better than this one:
He said, I love you son
And I know she’s not your mother
But when I’m gone look after each other
That made me want to wail
Like a Coltrane solo
I said, “It’s okay daddy if it’s time to go.”
To close the album— and independent of Townshend—Brook turns the familiar rock n roll adage “Who Are You” into a haunting, Appalachian dirge, fitting as “Little Birdie” is also compellingly explored.
I’ve been happily living with Desolation Sounds for several weeks, and I believe CKUA has played it a bunch. I sure hope it gains traction. Americana recordings of this quality are rare, especially in our part of the world.