With a voice both plaintive and lyrical, and with a keen ear for language, Chris Brashear continues to be one of the finest writers and exponents of the sentimental song. That fact was certainly front and center on his 1998 solo CD Wanderlust (highlighted by his originals “Mason’s Lament” and “Lost Soldier’s Son”) and it’s certainly front and center on this one on which he’s backed by such stylists as Tim O’Brien, Mike Compton, and Al Perkins.
Of the thirteen tracks here, Brashear wrote nine, filling his tunes with parloresque emotion and with phrases that bridge his songs back to the sentimental age. In “Listen To Me Mother,” for example, a son explains he will return in the verdant month of May. Brashear could have wrote simply in the spring, but a level of charm would have been lost. Important, too, is the way he closes the chorus of the slow, mournful “Today I Saw The Longest Train” with the archaic-sounding things now past and gone. In that phrase of finality and in the title phrase opening, the chorus are the hooks that place this song among his finest compositions and transforms into a powerful statement of loss and longing, the simple idea of equating a passing train with a remembrance of all that used to be.
Almost on that level are “This Oregon Country” and “A Little Picture,” the former a celebration of place, the latter a lament that pines for the real face, not the picture. His uptempo “Time The Perfect Stranger” is a little obtuse and not as immediately engaging lyrically, but is good overall and reveals more with each play. Also listen for the fiddle-tune with words, “Hills Of Arkansas,” another fine celebration of place.
All four of the covers are excellent choices, but Iris Dement’s beautiful and lilting remembrance of singing with her mother, “Mama’s Opry,” stands out on this very good album. (Hearth Music, 14879 6th Ave. NE, Shoreline, WA 98155, www.chrisbrashear.info.)BW