Sounding like the best parts of Jack Johnson and Gavin DeGraw rolled into one – with a Dylan-esque vocal flair here and there – Brett Dennen’s Hope for the Hopeless is the great album of 2008 that I missed; I love Johnson and Jakob Dylan, but this acoustic rock album blows Sleep Through the Static and Seeing Things away! (…a conclusion supported by the fact that the always frustrating Rolling Stone reviewers barely acknowledged this great release with three stars and a lukewarm paragraph of backhanded compliments.)
Hi folks! Welcome to another Jim Fusco Tuesday! This was one of those weeks where, after such a great long weekend, I truly dreaded the four-day week ahead. I have two immediate video programs to edit, a whole bunch of PSA’s, an audio mastering project, and multiple projects looming around the corner… And that’s all stuff I have to do AFTER a crazy day at work! I feel myself getting a better handle on things at work, but it’s still a struggle on a daily basis, as I’m constantly trying to dig out of a growing hole. It’ll get better, but it’s just these weeks when everything piles up that I get a bit nervous. Becky’s been helping (bringing me coffee and snacks, plus trying to keep me to a schedule), so it’s definitely hurt less than it should’ve.
Anyway, onto tonight’s video:
I’ve been churning out the new artists to the blog lately (and ones you might even have heard of, by the way), but tonight I might break that mold a bit. I had never heard of Brett Dennen before, but my boss kept telling me about him after he heard Dennen’s music on Last.fm, a music service on Xbox 360. Anyway, he burned me a copy of Brett’s songs (don’t worry, Brett- I bought the LP version of “Hope for the Hopeless” afterward and so did my brother!). But, even though he kept asking me about it, I didn’t put the CD in because I was still hooked on the Grateful Dead! So, about four weeks ago now, I popped Brett’s “Hope for the Hopeless” album in and completely fell in love with the music.
The man is simply a good songwriter. His songs are not overly complicated (which I LOVE)- he uses some pretty simple chords in some songs (and some cool inversions in others, too) and the songs are short and sweet. The songs pretty much follow the verse-bridge-chorus model and there’s one or two guitar solos spattered throughout the album. It’s a short one with only 11 songs, but I don’t care- the quality definitely makes up for the quantity.
Dennen’s two previous releases before “Hope for the Hopeless” had the feel of Jack Johnson’s first album- sparsely produced to its detriment. Yes, there are good songs, but I need a little more than an acoustic guitar to make me love an album. “Hope for the Hopeless” is different. It’s almost like he got signed to a label that gave him some more money to produce an album. The result is amazing- I just love the production on this disc. You won’t find a lot of harmonies here and the instruments are no-frills. Mostly, you have an acoustic, an electric, bass, piano/organ, and drums. That’s a perfect mix for me. What’s great about this album, and I plan on trying with my next album, is that there really is no rhythm guitar. The guitar only plays what it needs to. So, the music sounds open, but not lacking. You’ll just have to listen to get what I’m saying.
I could’ve picked any of the 11 songs from “Hope for the Hopeless” to cover. My favorites are “Who Do You Think You Are?” and “Make You Crazy”, but I chose “Heaven” because it’s just one of those “perfect” songs. It has such a message- kind of like “Imagine” by John Lennon. This song, according to Dennen fans, will stand as his masterpiece. On the recording, I challenge you not to get chills once the band comes in at the start of the second chorus. It’s AWESOME!
So, I decided to record my version of this song just acoustically, though I’ve been playing it on the piano recently, as well. “Heaven” is a great song to sing by yourself, as it only has one vocal in the album version anyway (the single version suffers from a female lead vocal in the second verse- I much prefer the album version and I’m glad he did it that way).
One thing about Dennen- when you hear his songs, you’ll notice his…let’s say “accent”. I’m not really sure what it is. It sounds Louisianan to me. At first, I really didn’t like it. But, if you get past the way he says certain words (like instead of “trouble”, he says, “trugh-bowl”), you’ll really like these songs. And now, I even like the way he says those words, because I can tell he’s not doing it on purpose (just to sound different)- it’s just the way he talks/sings.
On a side note, check out one of my new favorite tunes, “Make You Crazy”, on YouTube- the music video is pretty cool.
Now, I had a feeling I’d heard of Brett Dennen before. I mean, that voice is so unmistakable. Becky and I both agree that we’ve heard his most “famous” song, “Ain’t No Reason” (not one of my favorites and if you heard it and know my musical tastes, you’ll understand why). We must’ve heard it in a TV show. Then, my brother Mike ended up knowing (and loving) “Make You Crazy”, too, from his days working at Hollister, where they played the song on a daily basis.
Okay, enough talk- time to watch the LSHD version of “Heaven” performed by me, Jim Fusco! I’d love to hear your thoughts about the song, my performance, and Brett Dennen. I hope you have a great week and make sure to stop back next Tuesday for another acoustic cover song. I plan on it being a classic early 60’s tune that Becky and I heard in the car while on our way to Albany, NY for our weekend trip. We had a blast- check my Twitter (jimfusco) for all the updates and photos from the road! Until next week!