Published Apr 21, 2015Over six years and five albums, British Columbian Dean Brody has risen to the summit of the Canadian chart country scene. On Gypsy Road, his best record yet, Brody mixes electro-pop, classic rock and bluegrass in a mostly successful effort to explore his particular brand of twang. This is a country record, to be sure, but it doesn't sound much like the radio pap we've (grudgingly) gotten used to.
Featuring smart, innovative arrangements and warm production from longtime collaborator Matt Rovey, this record reminds me of the time when the charts weren't ruled by same-sounding dudes obsessed with bikini beach parties and chugging beer at tailgaters. Praise be.
On songs such as "Upside Down" and "Bring Down The House," Brody flirts with mainstream pop, overlaying rock'n'roll and even EDM flourishes onto his down-home country baseline. Progressive, modern music with a propulsive, crackerjack banjo driving the rhythm, the result is closer to Brad Paisley than it is to George Jones. This is modern country with a classic soul.
Unfortunately, the lyrics need to catch up to the sophistication of the tunes that surround them. There are several moments when Brody slips into what is, at best, ho-hum predictability and, at worst, face-palm cheesiness, and on repeated listens this begins to grate.
Take a song like "Love Will Be Enough." Brody sounds exciting and fresh (using that irrepressible banjo underneath a punchy rock arrangement), but the refrain about how "we don't need a lot of stuff" because "love will be enough" sounds like about a hundred other songs by a hundred other artists. And the less said the better about "Sweet Lola," an attempt at a story song in the old Marty Robbins vein that, in its idiotic drunk-tank-prison-break-meets-idealized-Latina jumble, plays on the wrong side of the irony divide.
Get Brody and his team some better material, and this guy's next record could well be a total knockout. (Open Road)