Danny Brooks No Easy Way Out

It’s always pleasing to see the persistence of a music veteran get rewarded. Toronto-raised and Guelph-based blues/soul/gospel troubadour Brooks certainly fits that category. He made a bit of a splash in the ’80s then struggled with both career setbacks and personal demons (including a junk habit and a jail stint for robbery). After cleaning up his act and finding a deep faith, he has re-emerged in compelling fashion. No Easy Way Out is his strongest work yet, one that is deeply autobiographical. "Ain’t That The Truth” and "Memphis, Tennessee” trace his love affair with the blues, the former name-checking all the greats he saw as a youth in Toronto. "Keys To My Heart” is a moving ballad addressed to his estranged daughter, while "Miracles For Breakfast” and "Lonesome Road” explore his faith. Brooks’ well-worn, slightly gruff voice is perfect for his gritty material, and the production and musicianship are simply top-notch. That’s not surprising when you see credits that include Muscle Shoals greats David Hood, Barry Beckett, Roger Hawkins and Spooner Oldham, backing vocalist Bonnie Bramlett (who joins Danny on a killer duet for the title track) and producer Johnny Sandlin. The disc was recorded in Sandlin’s Alabama studio (Duck Tape Music) and the setting clearly inspired Brooks. It’s hard to imagine a better Canadian blues album coming out this year. (Rockin' Camel)