Michael Brennan Anywhere But Here

Bet your math teacher didn’t sing this well. That may be Brennan’s day job but the Cape Breton-raised, Toronto-based singer-songwriter is a committed and highly accomplished roots troubadour. He paid dues with his band the Wayward Angels and delivers his best work yet on this, his second solo album. The peer respect he enjoys is shown by the presence of such A-list players as Kevin Breit (who, typically, shines on seven different stringed instruments), the rhythm section of John Dymond and Gary Craig (Blackie and the Rodeo Kings), Steve Briggs, Steve Dawson and Dennis Keldie, while David Travers-Smith contributes clean production. Brennan kicks things off by showing his roots on a spirited version of "Mystery Train” and closes the disc with a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s "No Place To Fall.” The material in between is all original, and is quite diverse in tone. Brennan’s songwriting is solid but it’s his vocals that really capture the ear. His full-blooded, clear and passionate voice brings to mind the likes of Roy Orbison and Raul Malo (of the Mavericks) on such ballads as "Grow Old With Me” and "Everything Has Changed.” It’s a voice you just believe and it brings credibility to songs that evoke a sense of restlessness and disquiet (song titles include "Troubled Mind,” "Everything Has Changed,” "Hung Out To Dry,” "Not Myself” and "Anywhere But Here.”). The latter song has the memorable lines of "My wish here in Parkdale is to be anywhere but here,” but we here in Parkdale are mighty glad to have Brennan around! (Independent)