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Robert Bruey: Carousel
by George Graham
(American Independent Release As broadcast on WVIA-FM 1/7/2015)
I’ve often said this: You would think that the simple singer-songwriter musical format, the folkies, would have became pretty stale by now, exhausting what would seem like the limited possibilities of ths style. But the reason it has endured for about 50 years now is that like a conversation, there are endless things to say musically, and a very large number of ways to saythem. This week we have a good example. It’s as close as you can come to an7 archetypal folkie: a singer-songwriter with an acoustic guitar, singing mostly songs about love and relationships. The result, however is an intelligent, engaging and appealing record. The singer-songwriter in question is Robert Bruey from Long Island, and his independent CD, released last fall, is called Carousel.
Robert Bruey is a New England native whose rural background is said to have influenced his style. He’s an excellent finger-pick style guitarist, and vocally he bears a bit of resemblance to Dave Matthews. Carousel is his third release. His debut album Songs from the Path was released in 2009, and that was followed by one called Silver Burning Sky. For this record, he enlisted the services of producer/engineer Ben Wisch who has a lengthy resume of tasteful, mostly acoustic singer-songwriter albums by people like Marc Cohn, Patty Larkin and Lucy Kaplanski. Wisch brings his style which can add some interesting musical touches without losing the acoustic center of the album. The group features a cellist Jon Preddice, plus electric guitarist Chris Marshak, bassist Jean-Paul West, and Jack Lecitra on electric keyboards. Wisch plays some acoustic piano, and Dana Bruey does the backing vocals. The group’s sound is usually understated with the arrangements nicely supportive of the songs. As mentioned, most of the lyrics are about love relationships in various states, from the healing power of love to a couple of breakup songs. But Bruey is the poet who sometimes gives his lyrics a kind of tentative nature. But despite some worthy words, a lot of the appeal of this album is its overall sound. Bruey’s slightly gruff vocal is a nice contrast to the usually very mellow instrumentation, with impressive acoustic guitar finger-picking, that can be reminiscent of the English folk scene at times.
The CD starts with a piece incorpoating that style of guitar, Comin’ Round. Lyrically, the song is about the old West with bit of modern juxtaposition. <<>>
According to Bruey the track called Fracture of a Sign is about someone trying to break away from “self imposed chains.” It also has a kind of contemplative sound. <<>>
More upbeat is a piece called Open Road which is about what its title says, a good traveling song. <<>>
Another particularly worthwhile piece is River of Stars, which is lyrically said to be about forgiveness, done with a good allegorical approach. The somewhat atmospheric musical setting adds much to the song. <<>>
The message of the piece Everything is that “time heals everything.” It has a kind of classic folky sound with addition of the tasteful cello. <<>>
Also about the perennial songwriting topic of love is a composition called Nightingale in which the bird is used as an analogy for love. The arrangement on the track allows the supporting musicians bit more of an opportunity to be heard. <<>>
A song called Whirlwind is described as being about a summer love, and has the appropriately breezy sound. <<>>
The CD ends with the closest thing it has to a rock & roll song, All This Is Love which lyrically is pretty self-explanatory. The drums provide a somewhat un-folk-like back beat, but the result is quite tasteful. <<>>
Carousel the new third album by Long-Island based singer-songwriter Robert Bruey, is an epitome of the contemporary folkie album, with an acoustic guitar usually at the center of things and literate poetic songs, most of them about love and relationships. This sort of thing is hardly unique, but what what makes it notable is the high quality of the songs and the especially classy production. Bruey’s web bio is rather short of details, but it’s apparent that he has been doing this kind of thing for quite a while, embodying the traditions but also managing to avoid the cliches of the genre. The musicians backing him on the CD are very tasteful and Ben Wisch’s production is up to his standards putting singer-songwriters like Bruey in the best light.
Our grade for sound quality is a B plus. Most of the instrumentation has a warm, appealing sound, but the vocals at times sound a bit overdriven with a loss of clarity and some harshness. The recording was also compressed too much, as most CDs are these days. That undermines the ebb and flow of the music.
Even in this day of synthetic pop by bands who could not exist without their computers, if you look outside the commercial music world, it’s not hard to find plenty of singer-songwriters plying their trades. So there’s lots of competiton. Robert Bruey’s Carousel is a worthy addition to the genre.
(c) Copyright 2015 George D. Graham. All rights reserved.
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