I am a firm believer that location can have an incredible influence on an artist’s music. The places you go, the places you have been impact you, inspire you. Knowing a diverse range of lands and lifestyles changes things. Brennan Stoelb has lived among a variety of American landscapes, the north, the south, the west. His music paints a picture of frosty desert buttes, snow-topped mountains with desert flora twining up their sides, great lakes steaming in the early morning sun. “Walking in Circles” is the second album which he has shared with the public.
The first thing that captivated me about “Walking in Circles” was the dog on the album cover. That is a cute, pretty, happy-looking dog. I love dogs. Sorry to any non-dog-lovers out there. This dog looks like he wants to meet me and that makes me so happy. I love meeting dogs. The first thing that captivated me when I actually started listening to the album was Stoelb’s voice. It has this incredible grain to it, like a photo taken with analog film. It brings depth and a definite uniqueness. It also creates a sense of timelessness. You could be here, now, or you could be on a horse in the New Mexican desert a hundred years ago. It’s even, classic, and there are no wasted words or notes.
The first track, “Heavy Heart”, begins with a solid bass beat and the declaration that the “rain’s still fallin’ and I haven’t slept a wink.” It’s hard to sleep when there is a lot on your mind, you’re struggling to do the right thing, but it always goes wrong. This song sets your toes tapping and can easily get stuck in your head. It transitions easily to the title track, “Walking in Circles” with a similar bass beat. I love the addition of a keyboard bit that sounds like a horn and a real, true electric guitar breakdown at the chorus.
“Pray Easy” begins in an upbeat story about church and people. “This world is makin’ me queasy, I’m tryin’ to pray easy.” The song discusses politicians, lies, people, accepting that we cannot know everything about life or ourselves and sometimes we need a higher power.
“Was it Ever True” has a gentle, blusey rhythm that lilts and jabs as Stoelb’s voice mulls over a failed relationship. He wonders what happened, one time I made you so happy, why did things change? Was it a lie the whole time? Will I ever find happiness in this world? Are all relationships lies? I love the sensitivity and honesty in this song. The lyrics are poetic, the music is soft but still rhythmic, you still want to sway your shoulders, tap your toes.
The album wraps up with “Wayward Son”, a ballad about leaving home and still being loved, leaving God and still being wanted. “If you’re feeling lost and confused, I am call-I am calling for you.” Stoelb presents the darkness in each of our souls, meets up with us on our darkest days and reminds us that there is hope, there is love.
If you like rainy days, lounging in the shade during the heat of the day, the Great Lakes, ham sandwiches, vegan sandwiches, the Pacific Northwest, the midwest, homemade pickles, yoga, botanical gardens, analog film, or fishing–you should check out Brennan Stoelb. I hope that he continues to create beautiful music.