Brandin Reed is one of the hardest working guys in the business. We know this because when he got a spot on our NMF contest, he personally tweeted out an invitation that brought more traffic than almost any other strategy. But let’s be clear, Reed is here getting this review because his music is outstanding. The reason he has loyal fans and followers is that he’s an extremely talented singer songwriter. This debut album shows off a promising rising star in the folk and Americana world.
The opening track “On the Road” has a nice rambling nature to it. It feels comfortable with some great string and guitar work. The characteristics of Reeds vocals fit really well with the genre. He tells stories a bit like Jim Croce in that you just want to hear more. There’s a peacefulness to his approach that makes his music “sit on the porch and sip some tea” kind of good.
The second track “Pour Out Love” is his most popular track from the album. It has a bit of a big worship song feel to it, which I think is the mission of the album ultimately. The crescendos all work toward an epic and soaring quality. It’s some of the best pure vocal work on the album, too. Reed taps into the tenor register of his voice and it really does rise up over the rest of the track. The vocal work shows a connection with the gospel genre that matches with the lyrics as well.
“Best Things in Life” is a wonderful track that reminds me of two iconic acts, NeedToBreathe and Ray Lamontagne. Honestly, Reed deserves to be in that company, too. His performance is outstanding and there’s a genuine heart to his music. It’s hard to explain how his words cut through the air so well, but he has an ability to sing about intangible topics with an earthy accessibility.
His track “Thank You” has a nice soulful slide to it. Some of the vocal runs on this song are incredible and it’s just nestled here in the middle of the album. I definitely think this could be a hit if it found its way into the right places. The easy feeling of the track conveys the heart of gratefulness well and it’s relaxing on the ears.
“So Long” has some of the best guitar work on the album. The track feels more like a traditional southern folk song than others on the album. It’s comfortable and feels “rural,” in a way. It makes me think of cool streams and relaxing landscapes. Unsurprisingly, “My Jesus” is a song having to do with faith, but it’s more country than the rest of the album. It seems to confront the uncertainties of life with responses that are rooted in faith rather than reason. Reed personifies the concept of love in the personhood of Jesus. “Can I tell you ’bout love? He’s a friend you can run to.” For fans of gospel music, this is a nice tune.
“If the Road Gets Hard” is an outstanding track and maybe my favorite on the entire album. The guitar work is pure soul and it introduces a fantastic vocal and lyrical complexity. When he says “I remember” in the opening verse, you’ll hear a perfect move into the tenor register and back. It’s superb. The thing you hear with Reed is that he doesn’t seem to be really “performing” music; he just sings with soul and it feels like the real thing. Unlike some of the others on the album, this song feels more like the evidence of his faith rather than an explicit conversation about it.
“Least of These” sounds like it could have been cut by Ray Charles. Remember that soul artists often had their roots in gospel music. Heck, this could be an Elvis song. Instead, it comes across as this unassuming and prayerfully delivered “red letter” commentary in the 21st century. It’s an incredible song. Similarly “This is not the end” is the penultimate song on the album, allowing for a bit of relaxing air at the opening of the song before moving into another convicting and moving vocal part. Is it a love song, or is it about faith and acceptance from God? You decide.
This album is one of the reasons I despise “singles” culture in music today. If you sit down and listen to this from start to finish, you will definitely feel something deep within your soul. For folks who are only here because you know one of Reed’s tracks, let me assure you that you will love the whole thing. Fans of the greats Ray Lamontagne or Marc Broussard need to give this album a listen. It’s really a work of art and an admirable contribution to the American music catalog.