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Album/Single Reviews

ALBUM REVIEW: Brett Kissel – ‘Now Or Never’



The first release of 2020 is the 4th major label album from Canadian Brett Kissel, which was timed for January 1st.

We have championed his cause previously. Those of us who saw his only UK performance to date at 2019’s Buckle & Boots festival will be aware of his dynamic and engaging stage presence. We have also included the first single release from the album ‘Drink About Me’ in our list of favourites from 2019.

He’s gained an impressive CV in the Canadian Country Music scene. Regular appearances in the top ten singles charts since 2013, and multiple accolades from his peers at the Canadian awards shows, including a period in the mid 2000’s when he essentially swept the board. He relocated to Nashville but retains strong links to his Canadian roots. His album has been released through Warner Music Canada.

The overriding memory of his performance at B&B was the way that he embraced and won over a crowd who would not have been aware of his back catalogue, and were hearing his songs for the first time. A Brett Kissel show is full-on. He’s not someone who simply brings a guitar and performs. His regular Canadian tour band were all with him, and those guys can seriously play. The songs match the vibrancy of the performer. A stage aura and high quality production. ‘Now or Never’ has the tunes that will feed the next tour.

‘Drink About Me’, the lead single from the project, and ‘Young Enough’ will not be heard at their best in a small honkytonk. They are big songs that require a big stage. The problem with songs that are clearly constructed for a live setting is their appeal to a purely listening audience. ‘She Drives Me Crazy’ has an EDM Euro-Disco vibe, but the early social media reaction is hugely positive and his loyal fans are massively behind it.

It would be churlish however to overlook Brett Kissel’s obvious country devotion. At times he can be solidly country, and none more-so than ‘That’s Country Music’, which highlights his perception of life’s experiences that form the music that we all embrace. Yes, it’s been done before, but rarely this well.

Let’s not forget that this guy was raised on a cattle ranch in Alberta. He released an album called ‘Keepin’ It Country’ when he was 12, which he dedicated to Johnny Cash. The reference to the man in black extends to the final track ‘Coffee With Her’, which was inspired by Cash’s response to the task “describe paradise” with the reply “this morning with her having coffee”. It’s a fine homage to family life and the contentment he has sharing his life with wife Celilia and his three kids. A great example of letting music speak for itself.

Brett’s recently appeared as a guest vocalist on Nashville singer-songwriter Christina Taylor’s single ‘As Good As You Look’, and she returns the favour here with the albums big ballad ‘I’m Not Him, I’m Not Her’. He has had this song in his locker for a few years but was awaiting the opportunity, and a co-vocalist that would do it justice. A song that deals that with relationship issues that will both inspire and resonate with many.

‘Hummingbird’ is gentle, retro and folksy, which emphasise the fiddles and slides. He describes it as the “most bluegrass kinda song that I’ve ever written”.

The upside of releasing a new album at this traditionally quiet time is the extra exposure that it will bring without distractions. The downside is that it can quickly be overlooked when the competition for attention hots up. The antidote for this is the single releases…

We have already highlighted the opening track ‘Drink About Me’ which is as radio friendly as it gets. Another likely candidate is ‘A Few Good Stories’, arguably the most commercial on the whole project. “I’m gonna put a few scratches on this old guitar, I’m gonna sip some good whiskey, smoke a Cuban cigar”. A party song for the live set, but also a contender for single selections.

‘Now Or Never’ is a mixed bag in terms of styles and substance, but overall extremely positive.  There will be a majority here in the UK who won’t know too much about him or his music, and this will be a good introduction. We can say with certainty that his fan base would grow with the experience of seeing him perform live in the UK.

Let’s hope he enjoyed the UK experience as much as we did, and fancies a speedy return!

Graham Wharton

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