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Smoke and Mirrors

Brett Dennen

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Album Review

Brett Dennen seems to be growing into his voice. High-pitched, fragile, and delicate, at times sounding eerily like Tracy Chapman or Billie Holiday, that voice, at first anyway, can be distracting, drawing attention away from his airy, melodic, and carefully written songs, although that voice hasn't kept his first four albums from drawing a lot of critical acclaim and attention. On this, his fifth full-length release, which follows the African rhythms and pop veneer of 2011's Loverboy, Dennen's vocals seem stronger and more certain, and the new songs, although well in line with what he's been writing all along, also seem to have accepted a simpler, easier template, and the sometimes ornate lyrics and phrasing that have kept a song or two from breathing in the past are largely absent here. Working with producer Charlie Peacock in Nashville, and featuring bassist Mark Hill, guitarist Jerry McPherson, drummer Aaron Sterling, and background vocalist Ruby Amanfu, Smoke and Mirrors has fewer pop touches and more of an acoustic backdrop than his previous album, all of which allows this new set of songs to breathe, and Dennen sings them well, sounding at times more like Jason Mraz and less like Jimmy Scott. The production is warm and wide, and sparse in all the right ways, giving songs like the opener, the bouncy "Sweet Persuasion," and the first single, the singalong "Wild Child," a sturdy feel, more joyous and feisty than fragile and delicate. Another highlight, the infectious "When We Were Young," sounds like a classic Tom Petty song, albeit with a higher-pitched lead vocal. In all, this outing is perhaps Dennen's strongest so far, with a warm and easy acoustic feel to it.

Customer Reviews

Brett is a musical genius

After hearing his new single and some other tracks that were played at his recent concerts I am very excited for the release of this album. Seems like this particular one is going to be a more relaxed Brett as he has already established himself as a great musician. Hopefully it is as good as all the others.

Wild Child

Just heard the single Wild Child and I absolutely love it! Anyone else hear a strong Steve Miller Band influence on that song?

Perfect

This album is beautiful. Brett Dennen has a way of changing his song style just enough on every album, but he always pulls it off wonderfully.

Biography

Born: October 28, 1979 in Oakdale, CA

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Youthful West Coast singer/songwriter Brett Dennen, with a fragile, high-pitched voice that makes him sound at times like a cross between Tracy Chapman and Neil Young, first drew attention in 2004 with the single "Desert Sunrise." The tune, with its easy groove and soulful phrasing, garnered enough spins on KCRW to warrant the release of his self-titled debut the following year. In 2006, Dennen signed with Dualtone and released So Much More. Hope for the Hopeless followed on the same imprint in 2008....
Full Bio
Smoke and Mirrors, Brett Dennen
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