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Sometimes
Artist: Erik Brandt 
Site: houseofmercyrecordings.com
Label: House Of Mercy
Tracks: 10 Tracks/33 min  
 
You know, once upon a time a long time ago, during the Elizabethan era (1558-1603 to be exact), folks assumed that music, it’s harmony, was a manifestation of the universal order in which God created heaven and earth. And isn’t that what a good artist does. Brings a harmony to your ears, a joyous celebration of life, its ups, downs and you would hope a reminder of God.  It’s like hot chocolate (not the band). It is a harmony between the bitter and the sweet! Love chocolate. I think when God inspired man to take this bitter bean and make it into a sweet delight He was thinking of me! Yup, God invented chocolate just for me. You guys can have Carob.  What is that?  Carob is like you are expecting to go to a beautiful sunny beach, only to find it is without the ocean.  It is not a beach it’s a desert. Enough to turn anyone into a savage beast.
 
While on the subject of Shakespeare, he also wrote some good stuff like, “The man that hath no music in himself, Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds, Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils." (Lorenzo, Merchant of Venice). Lorenzo reminds us that we are not immune to the effects that music has on our emotions. As William Congreve said in, The mourning bride, “Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast”.
 
Mmm. Curious. Erik Brandt used to teach Shakespeare. He now teaches English and Journalism at Harding High School, St Paul, Minnesota. By night however, he is different animal; musician and ringleader of the Urban Hillbilly Quartet. This disc,  Sometimes, his second solo effort is a collection of Brandt all originals. It is a melodious amalgam of Americana/Bluegrass/Folk with Erik at his dulcet acoustic guitar pick’n best. 
 
Brandt’s music has been influenced by (and sometimes compared to) the likes of Uncle Tupelo; Vigilantes of Love; Australia’s Paul Kelly; and folk/jazz stars David Grisman, Paris Combo and the Tin Hat Trio. In a recent interview with Dwight Hobbes of the Daily Planet, Brandt says that he likes, “the lyrics of Mike Scott of the Waterboys. Also Bruce Cockburn, Woody Guthrie, the Jayhawks, the Cash Brothers, and Eliza Gilkyson.”

This album was recorded in Hungary and partly influenced by his time there. Seeking to get away from the familiar Brandt made a temporary move to Budapest in 2007 as part of a one-year teacher exchange program, and as Brant said to “find my perspective.”  It was while there he struck up a friendship with Hungarian musician Miklós Szula, a multi-instrumentalist (who co-produced the CD with Brandt), and found a community of Hungarians immersed in the Americana/Bluegrass/Folk scene. Couldn’t escape it could he? Szula, who performs throughout the record, recruited a handful of top players from Hungary’s folk and bluegrass scenes to add some distinctive touches to Sometimes
 
So what does Erik Brandt’s Sometimes sound like? Well firstly, Brandt is a craftsman who constructs his music much like Tom Rush, James Taylor or Gordon Lightfoot. This album combines the bitter and sweet of life in songs like “Who Am I Making The Bed For”, “Locks”, and the title track “Sometimes”. Secondly, it is a very folksy/bluegrass styled album, with touches of bouzouki, nyckelharpa (a Swedish instrument that sort of looks like a big fat keyed violin. Similar to a Hurdy Gurdy except it uses a bow) with some Hungarian street noises and counting for effect. Added to this I could hear elements of Johnny Cash, and James Taylor in the mix making this a most enjoyable listen. So it is a lyrically and sonically well-crafted Folksy/Bluegrass album . . . that reminds me of chocolate?

Erik has done some extensive touring including Europe, England, Australia, and Canada and you can still catch him and the Hillbillies regularly around St Paul. He got the courage to start touring at Cornerstone; “We owe a lot to the festival in a way. That gave us the courage to tour. We played there one time and had no idea what we were getting into and sold something like 100 CD’s in 45 minutes and we thought people across the country may actually be interested in what we're doing. Just about every place we played on tour someone from Cornerstone or someone who had heard about us from people who went to Cornerstone came to our shows”

If you are into Bluegrass/Folk you wont be disappointed in  Sometimes. So if you thought you were going to a beach but wound up in a desert and are a bit upset about the whole thing, and want to find the music inside you to calm the beast you have become . . . go get it.
 
Rob Boynton


 

 
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