I am an avid consumer of National Public Radio. I really, really value the fact that I never have to listen to mainstream radio music because NPR is always there with interesting information, weird game shows, and lots of coverage of the happenings in Syria. They run a segment called All Songs Considered which is basically a forty minute music discussion. It feature all kinds of stuff. In this particular episode which I caught in January, they featured Bruce Springsteen right along indie-folk band Besides Daniel. They played their song “Untouched and Burning” which caught my ear because of the beautiful choral phrases and gorgeous lyrics. I filed them into the depths of my iphone which I lost in a crevasse two weeks later. Gone is usually gone forever. Then, Besides Daniel was handed to me again, appearing in my inbox, and there were those beautifully textured choral sections, and incredible lyrics. The love was re-ignited. This could be your new favorite band.
Besides Daniel is comprised of frontman Danny Brewer and an ever changing gang of other talented helpers and musicians. “This Marvelous Grief” is Brewer’s third album. The first track is the one that I heard on NPR. “Untouched and Burning” is a gorgeous piece of music. It feels like leather and silk, the guitar rhythms are as precise and gentle as a sewing machine. Brewer’s voice is loamy and real. The lyrics tell a story of giving up and discovering the beauty put into our souls by God, reaching out to discover who this creator is. “You have put this here so that we reach for you. But we don’t know how to speak your name. Help us to love ourselves.”
The most folky sounding song on “This Marvelous Grief” is probably 10,000 Beautiful Angels, but it is by no means a typical folk song. The layering of sounds, violin, viola, cello, and voices, is stunning and perfectly complemented by resplendent lyrics. This song explores the concepts of memory, beauty, and the passage of time with such elegance and sophistication.
“Grand Canyon” has a completely different sound. It’s a little psychedelic and a lot soulful. I like the chime-y keyboard sounds and the very slight distortion on Danny’s voice. All of the different sounds give the song the bit of confusion that it is trying to convey. “Grand Canyon is a relic left from a past relationship. It’s not a sad song. It ends with hope, but it is a mournful song. It’s an expression of those empty feelings that come with losing something important to you. Memories and kisses and feelings that will never be relived. Regrets that will perpetuate.
Re-live some memories of feelings and feelings of memories with “In a Heartbeat”. It’s a story told late at night in a whispery voice. It is the bittersweet feeling of a long forgotten time being brought back by some smell or texture. “Can you recall the sound? The way my whisper sounded then?” I love the harmonies in the opening and choruses. The storytelling qualities are so poetic and eloquent. Brewer’s lyrics bring back so many beautiful, and fond, and bittersweet memories of my own, while making me imagine what they must evoke for him as well. If you are going to buy one song on this album, buy this one. It is airy and powerful. I keep playing it over and over again and each time it grows more beautiful.
I loved the minor key mixed with a moderate tempo in “1979”. Melancholy, upbeat, effervescent. The story of a summer romance and the life of a family, painted through the sepia lense of another time, not too long ago, just long enough for memories. This song ends the album on a beautiful, hopeful, fond note.
Brewer is talented. His band is great. I wish that they would bring their current tour to Cleveland, but who even comes to Cleveland anymore. Maybe Brewer will wander into my life one day amid all of his journeyings and searchings for the things which feed his incredible poetry because that is what his lyrics are–pure poetry. “This Marvelous Grief” is perfect dinner party or intimate gathering music. It is perfect music for sitting in the beanbag chair and doing some work. It is also the perfect music for evenings home alone. Danny Brewer’s voice sounds like the wind rustling through the fields. It sounds like the roots of the trees reaching deep into the earth. It evokes memories, and fondness, and a little heartache mixed with hope. You should definitely check out this album, as well as Brewer’s other music, and share it with your friends and enemies. If you live in the Southeastern United States, you should do everything you can to go see them perform live because it would be a wonderful experience to hear this music sung in this voice, and this music played by these musicians in real life.