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Happy Hosting, Happy New Year - Rob Ellen
Canadian singer-songwriter Brock Zeman’s 11th album Pulling Your Sword Out Of The Devils Back is a landmark recording for the hard working musician, producer and songwriter.
Opening track, title-cut “Pulling Your Sword Out Of The Devil’s Back” has him adopt a storytelling style akin to the likes of Sam Baker and Steve Forbert as he comes from another direction to your everyday singer-songwriter. Inspired work. It doesn’t stop there either with “Walking In The Dark” offering a busy bustling inspirational feel, and with it is followed in sequence by the big sound of “Sweat”. Zeman steps further into the darkness of an intricate songwriter’s mind as he tries to make sense of life.
Zeman plays guitars (electric, acoustic), synthesizer, and shaker with Blair Hogan, Ryan Weber, Dylan Roberts, Mike Yates, Peter Brown and Joel Williams adding a bunch more essential sounds. Highlights include wonderful story song “Ten Year Fight; set to a gentle little chugging rhythm it soon fits into a comfortable groove as he reflects on an old love and how it took him years to put aside the troubled experience. I love his conversational style and occasions he shows a little more urgency as on the electric guitar prompted “Drop Your Bucket” (his smoky, roughed up tones have him hustle up a hot to go blues boogie of killer proportions), and with a more deft approach when it was becomes a little heavy, musically “Little Details” drops by. Perfect timing. One of the greater things about Zeman’s work is not just the width, the variation in themes, musical direction but the fact he absorbs the attention of the listener to the degree you may only be 45 seconds into a song but the song has already found a place to sit on the bench alongside you. As in the conversational “Don't Think About You Anymore’, this as he speaks in a simple, matter-a-fact way of his own present everyday life without this former partner.
On bringing a funky near 1960s cum early 1970s edge “Dead Man Shoes” draws from a number of sources, and with a percussive rhythm dominant coupled with some infectious electric guitar as hints of Steve Earle’s early work surface in all its glory Zeman burns an exciting pathway.
To close he is in sombre mood as he speaks of how “Everybody Loves Elvis”; this as he asks what kind of songs a girl plays on her radio. Something (radio, tiny transistor radios remember them) set to be all too soon forgotten as the world goes digital, all wireless. Great little album, the kind of record I never fail to discover something wonderful and new (to me) every time I play it!
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