Album review: DANNY BRYANT – Means Of Escape

Pete Feenstra chatted to Danny Bryant about the album ‘Means Of Escape’  in August 2019.  First broadcast on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, 4 August 2019.  (30:31)

Danny Bryant - Means Of Escape

Jazzhaus [Release date 20.09.19]

It’s tempting to view Danny Bryant’s ‘Means Of Escape’ as a conceptual title, reflecting the view that whatever changes he’s been though in his life, it’s his chosen profession as a musician that provides him with all the focus and creativity he requires in which to direct his considerable talents.

It’s also an album that works hard to strike a balance between his natural rock-blues instincts and those of an Americana balladeer. And while he doesn’t quite have the voice to stamp his own DNA on his better crafted songs, there’s no denying the veracity of his heart felt lyrics.

Lyrically speaking, ‘Means Of Escape’ sounds like an artist teetering on the brink of early middle age, with songs that search for meaning, inspiration and above all a musical direction.

Musically, it’s almost the opposite, as he fills his canvass with an aggressive swagger – full of fiery and gnawing licks – while his swelling melodies are tempered by a jagged edge as evidenced by tracks such as ‘Nine Lives’ and ‘Skin And Bone’, which looking back, collectively reflect the title of his 2010 album ‘Just As I Am’.

And it’s a mixture of self revelation and honesty that precludes Danny from becoming a populist Heartland rocker like John Mellencamp for example.

He enjoys a return to basics on a self produced bluesy set that is less diverse than his last 2 albums, but seeks to find a vital spark to capture those magical moments that do indeed provide him with his ‘Means of Escape’.

His decision to self produce is a significant one, on an album in which he stretches his blue collar persona into the personal realms of reflection, introspection, and poignancy. And while his vocals sometimes struggle to emulate some of his ideas and incendiary guitar playing, there’s no denying that when he lights the emotional touch paper it frequently leads to inspirational moments.

He’s at his best on the rich toned, ‘Too Far Gone’ on which his incisive guitar lines cut a swathe through a big band arrangement. The title track much like powerhouse opener ‘Tired Of Trying’ mirrors his mentor Walter Trout’s passion and intensity. The second defining solo on the latter song is a perfect conduit for conveying both emotion and meaning as he racks up the intensity.

Then there a welcome reworking of his best ever ballad ‘Where The River Ends’ from his 2003 album ‘Shadows Passed’ album. Here, it is denuded of its original sparse, synth-based arrangement and given a more organic feel.  He threads his guitar line through the middle of a slow build, sandwiching  Stevie Watts piano and organ doubling, between a contrasting piercing solo and warm toned resolution that carries an emotional punch.

He’s even better on the instrumental book-end of ‘Mya’, a keyboard-led instrumental with a swelling melody and inspired guitar solo that like ‘Too Far Gone’ and ‘Nine Lives’ loses a shade of its impact because of a perfunctory fade.

The best moments come when his song craft aligns with a bright sonic quality. On the unflinching ‘Skin And Bone’ – an ode to his dad which is every bit as good as, but much different to ‘Shouting At The Moon’ (from ‘Revelation’),  his rough edged approach to both production and vocal phrasing seems to aim squarely at capturing raw gut emotion at the expense of refinement.

And while the rough-hewn Texas styled shuffle of’ ‘Nine Lives’ undoubtedly captures the intrinsic live feel of the band, it feels more like a filler track than something he worked hard on to fit the album.

‘Warning Signs (In Her Eyes)’ is full of his archetypal live bluster and is given extra heft by the horns, while his vocal on ‘Hurting Time’ could have been better, or at the very least slightly more considered, particularly as it sequenced between two of his very best tracks.

But what you get with Danny Bryant is nothing less than honesty. Whereas his previous two albums represented a quantum leap in terms of both song writing, production and an overall vision, ‘Means Of Escape’ is a re-statement of his unfettered musical impulses and influences.

At its best ‘Means Of Escape’ plays to Danny’s strengths as a guitarist and successfully ask much of his nascent writing ability, while the more rough-edged tracks feel like a glance back at his former self.

He’s moved on of course, but while ‘Means Of Escape’ is rock solid and fired up enough to satisfy the need for a solid ‘live in the studio’ band album, it is one catalytic element short of pushing Danny to his full potential.

There’s still much to enjoy from an artist who still has plenty more to give. Press play and immerse yourself. ****

Review by Pete Feenstra

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 20 September 2020.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 22 September 2020.

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