Bret Coats [Release date 04.07.15]
‘Music For The People’ finds respected sideman Bret Coats in unfamiliar territory as a poacher turned gamekeeper. He cleverly draws on diverse, but related music styles to shape his own musical vision in the company of excellent musicians.
Bret is a southern Californian native and a 25 year Austin,Texas music veteran who also enjoyed a brief stint in Seattle. His second solo album ‘Music For The People’ is a rock, blues, funk, rootsy, soul album all rolled into one. In marketing terms it might be regarded as alt.rock, soul and Americana with bluesy antecedents.
He’s worked with Austin’s finest, from Bobby Mack’s Night Train, the famed Antone’s house band, the Moeller Brothers (from the Fabulous Thunderbirds) and Alan Haynes (who appears on one of the album’s best tracks ‘Hey Now’) and is current the bass playing vocalist with The Texas Cannonballs.
‘Music For The People’ suggests his time has come. The album is ripping affair full of deep grooves, live in the studio riffage and nine dirt-in-the-tracks cuts that are the result of relentless gigging.
Bret plays bass, rhythm guitar and even trumpet on an album that alternatively rocks out, funks things up, and even explores some smouldering Americana.
He thumps out his bass lines with such venom that the songs have an edge that is never smoothed out until the band hits a big groove, a booming hook or a concluding solo.
The album opens with a straight to the vein groove on ‘Listen For The Bass Line’, a song he’s now incorporated into his current band the Texas Cannonballs.
It’s almost an instructional title, as his bass is embedded at the heart of pile driving track that is nicely contorted by Scott Unzicker’s gnawing guitar line and Bret’s own brash trumpet which thickens the hook.
Bret also has one of those wry vocal styles that uses ambivalence as a dynamic device to give the album its uplifting feel.
The band gets funky on the exuberant ‘Magic Man’ which sounds if they pushed every last air molecule round the 1920’s house that doubled as a recording studio.
It makes the following Americana tinged ‘Anna’s Song’ all the more surprising. Producer Nick Jay’s evocative piano line perfectly mirrors Bret’s emotive vocal on a subtle enveloping track that shows the full extent of Bret’s musical sweep. As the band drops in, Nick’s piano engages guitarist Jeff Conti, and the latter’s evocative tones rise above an ascending wall of sound leading to a spacey ending that suggests a filmic landscape.
In sharp contrast, ‘That’s What People Do’ is a slice of whimsical pop and alt.twang , built on an insistent acoustic rhythm track, an imposing pedal steel figure, echo reverb vocals and ever present handclaps.
‘Throw You A Bone’ is an exercise in bristling dynamics that moves from an acoustic and pedal steel intro to a full blown grunge style chorus, that might reflect Bret’s time in Seattle.
‘Music For The People’ has linear feel and an overall flow that starts from Bret’s propulsive bass playing and extends to the intuitive collective interplay.
It all comes together brilliantly on the mighty groove of ‘Hey Now’, which features inspired harp and guitar from Greg Izor and Alan Haynes respectively. When Bret shouts out a celebratory ‘play on’ in the middle of the song, you realise the band is smoking.
His lyrics also convey a sense of humour with light ironic touches on smart word plays. The opening double guitar and organ lines power the muscular funk of ‘Sexy Song’, on which Bret sings ‘I like your piano playing figures’. He’s equally good on the folk-narrative of the contemplative ‘On The Mountain’ which combines history, geography and urban rumour with great acoustic playing.
The exclamatory ‘Look At Me’ rounds things off, as he raps about: ‘standing in line and spreading love while you’re doing so’. The band stretches out on a killer funky groove full of instrumental colour, which is ultimately eclipsed by a descending keyboard line that all too soon signals the end of a fine album. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
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