Is Not Was – Steve Brockley (reviewed by T. Bebedor)

It’s difficult to review an artist who is both singer and drummer without thinking of the inevitable comparison with a certain Genesis member but, that is basically where the comparisons end.

I won’t lie, even before I played it I wanted to like this album, I like things out of the ordinary and people that are bucking the trend of a one-man-and-his-guitar in favour of something a little more exploratory and Steve Brockley is something I like to call a ‘percussive’ drummer, by this I mean he doesn’t limit the sound his instrument can make by using two sticks and the drum kit, he switches to brushes, uses shakers and tackles the drums as a piece of the percussion puzzle. What this does is help shape and build the sound and add textures to the rhythms. It’s no surprise that the drums sound fantastic, each skin and cymbal is clear on the track and becomes its own character throughout the album.

The music itself is a mix of roots, country and soul, the production is gentle, calm and in no mood to rush, this is an album built on patience, an album for listening to whilst watching the sun set or watching the world wake to a new day. At only nine tracks long you can listen to it a few times before you take in the small variations in tone, it plays out like a Ray Lamontagne album and with track ‘Nothing On Wheels’ opening with the line “I took my broken truck to the dealership” you’re in no doubt that the music will be country-centred.

The title track is a smart introduction to the soundscape Brockley is trying to build, we have slide guitar, subtle female backing vocals, harmonica and clever lyrics that are both melodic and emotional keeping the sound traditional but also hinting at something new. He’s able to bring the lights down low on songs like ‘Someone to Dance With’ but also raise the roof with ‘Thrift Store’ and ‘Gideons’ showing diversity in his song writing and musicianship.

I had never heard of Steve Brockley before but there is enough here for me to seek out his previous album, ‘LeBoeuf’, if you like your music a little less showy and more about mood and meaning, you may have stumbled upon a little gem of an album.

 

 

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