Brock Zeman is one of those songwriters who continuously blows my mind. And I just can’t understand why he isn’t a household name. He has released nine albums, including this one – and last year’s Ya Ain’t Crazy, Henny Penny was as good as they come. And you know I’m a sucker for a good songwriter who really knows how to get good lyrics across to the listener.
And now he’s back with another collection of songs. And they are even better. How he does it is beyond me, but my theory is that he actually should have been an author. Because his songs aren’t just songs. They are stories. Brilliantly crafted short-stories where he creates characters who come alive for 3-4 minutes and take on real lives in which they convey their story before leaving us with a sensation that we actually have gotten to know a piece of someone’s life.
He creates a setting and characters as effectively as a painter, using clear strokes to make the painting true to nature and easy to believe. Writing short stories is a craft in it’s own, and not many authors master that craft like Brock Zeman. In some ways he reminds me of writers Frank Bill and his “Crimes in Southern Indiana” and Daniel Woodrells “The Outlaw Album”.
Compared to Ya Aint’ Crazy, this time around there’s a bit more bite to the production, giving it a bit more rock’n’roll. The album doesn’t have any weak songs, but a couple of them stand out above the rest as simply wonderful.
One of the best examples of his writing and building of characters that make us want to know more you can find in “Triple Crown”:
«The guitar player’s got a Stetson and a smoke dangling from his lips
And he looks just as greasy as his guitar licks
The prettiest girl in the whole bar asked me what my name was
But the band was so goddamn loud that I never caught hers
But I got her hair in my mouth from screaming in her ear
And it smelled just like cigarettes and her breath smelled like beer
In my mind we got married and I moved to Austin that fall
And she learned every word to every one of my songs»
One of my favourite books is Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road”, and I loved the tv-show Jericho (at least season 1). I’ve been fascinated by the concept of the world collapsing and how the remaining humanity will cope for as long as I can remenber, and the song “The End Of The World” puts that all into song;
«It’s the end of the world, it’s just you and me
I know it might sound crazy but I always knew it would end up this way
The building’s were collapsing and the sky was on fire
I said, “there’s nothing to be afraid of” and you said, “you’re a terrible liar”»
The closing songs are nothing short of brilliant. “Rain On The Roof – part 1” and “Rain On The Roof – part 2” capture that melancholy feeling you get while sitting inside, listening to the rain outside. The thoughts that usually appear create the backdrop of the song, and while the songs are totally different – they are the same. The way the sound of the rain is used in part 2, fading into a moody organ, before it all trickles out with the sound of the rain is just fantastic.
I love this album. And I hope you will too. Brock Zeman really deserves a bigger audience. There is far between songwriters creating songs on such a consistently high level, and he just don’t release bad albums. I’m not sure how he does it, but give him the attention he deserves and if you’re into lyrics you won’t regret it!