Thursday, September 25, 2008

David Brewer's "Ghost Dance"

Reviewed by Mark Dalton

David Brewer is an artist who defies convention. His new CD is an extension of his move to more solo performances in recent years (ease of touring reportedly being part of the advantage). But make no mistake here – there’s nothing “acoustic” about Brewer’s live performances, or about his approach on this CD! The absence of bass or drums here doesn’t mean the tunes rock any less - Brewer’s music is still centered around his big, fat, electric guitar sound and his driving sense of rhythm.

Brewer takes great pride in his Native American heritage (if you don’t know the history of the “Ghost Dance” in those desperate last days of the plains wars, I suggest you check it out – part of the story is included in the CD liner notes) and this music is firmly rooted in the land we continue to uneasily occupy together, transcending genres, all songs that Brewer has made totally his own. Music of North America – strong, plain, honest, straight ahead music, accurately reflecting the man who makes it.

The recording is well done here – Brewer plays all guitars, in layers, often with a flat-top guitar on the bottom, and electric rhythm laid over that, and those patented soaring lead guitar solos over the top. Vocals are right up front, with vocal harmony tracks coming in at times. Tambourine and various shakers and percussion are woven into the sound at times, but the driver for this music is always guitar; that from-the-elbow kind of rhythm–playing that Don Wilson of the Ventures modeled so well for musicians of our generation. This kind of one-man-plays-it-all project is tricky – I’ve heard CDs done this way that sound stiff and artificial – but Brewer’s CD has an integrated, organic feel to it that works throughout.

None of the songs on this CD were originally written by Brewer. The tunes range from a Chuck Berry classic, “You Can’t Catch Me” (the one about the “Airmobile”) to the old C&W favorite “Crazy Arms,” to more recent songs by Greg Allman and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top. All of these tunes are well suited to Brewer’s eclectic style, and they all sound perfectly well-worn, like David’s been living these songs, and life they describe, for as long as any of us can remember. And you know what? That’s the truth, right there!

Originally from Nebraska, Mark Dalton moved to Seattle in the early '70s. He is an accomplished bassist and stalwart bluesman. He currently plays with Chris Stevens' Surf Monkeys. Photo by Ronda Lee.

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