Gaz Brookfield – True and Fast album review..
I’d be amazed if anyone vaguely into Ferocious Dog hasn’t encountered Gaz Brookfield too – he’s been support a few times to the band as well as making starring appearances at the last couple of Dogfests. I first saw Gaz as the early support act for the Levellers and immediately rushed off to buy an EP – that was obviously a striking occasion as it features in Land Pirate’s Life subsequently.
On that day as a competition prize I was due to collect some merchandise from the Levs backstage so even had the chance to meet him briefly behind the stage at Rock City and congratulate him on a cracking performance – not that I imagine that has stuck in the memory. I hope not anyway, I was in the midst of a particularly ridiculous Movember effort at the time – but ever since then I’d decided to keep an eye out for him.
Lucky for me then that he subsequently seemed to forge a relationship with the other main band in my life – so as well as taking in as many of his own gigs as I’ve been able to I also benefit from his support slots with FD as well. The autumn tour will be doubly a treat on this score since he features on the bill for the vast majority of these! So anyway, background aside, Gaz’s new album True and Fast dropped in my mailbox yesterday much to my excitement.
When you keep close tabs on a performer albums hold that delicious mixture of the familiar and the new – some of the tracks I’ve heard live a few times, some I have in recorded form on his acoustic EP from last year or his recent Every Show Counts live album – then there’s the new tracks too. The familiar ones you get to hear with the full band treatment rather than just Gaz and his guitar (which generally I find is enough, but still!).
Opening with Godless Man we pick up a fairly common theme of religion – or rejection of it – a rousing number reflecting on the dilemma of what those without faith might do in lieu of praying – it certainly gets the foot tapping right from the off with an irresistibly singalongable chorus. A slightly more sympathetic sequel to the brilliantly cutting Death Bed from the Tell It To The Beer album.
Next up is a familiar one from the EP, Sailor Jerry’s Kitchen is a bit of a growing up ‘I need to get a mortgage’ song – and frankly a blueprint of an awesome sounding house – I’ve always hankered after a Chesterfield armchair and a drinks globe too, and who wouldn’t want a festival back garden? Aside from having plenty of rum in it (definitely a good thing) I’m not exactly clear on what a Sailor Jerry’s Kitchen actually is, though!
One of the best things about Gaz’s music is it’s often rooted in autobiography – and one of his best examples of this is The Diabetes Blues charting his diagnosis of the disease and the subsequent impact on his ability to drink his favourite tipple. It’s a brilliant track live, and it works brilliantly with the full band treatment. Next up a melancholy reflective number Just A Ride compels the listener to make the most out of life at a slower pace – lovely sentiments with a swayable backing track.
The Ballad of Elizabeth Duke picks up the pace (and familiarity again) and is a cutting reflection on political matters like budget setting and the never declining gap between those in power and the regular folk like us. Maps up next is a slow and charming track about the singer’s obsession with cartography, I imagine maps feature quite heavily in the life of such an extensive tourer like Gaz, I like maps too – this track will have you tapping your foot and almost tempted to break into a line dance with a country feel to it.
The pace is picked up again with Mud and Rainbows again – a song of opposites (which reminded me of Glass Half Empty but perhaps based on friends rather than a relationship. Solo Acoustic Guy is a slightly embittered account of the lot of the solo acoustic performer on the road – again a reasonably common theme in Gaz’s canon and I can understand it in a way – I still struggle to understand why Gaz isn’t a much more well-known performer nationally. It’s like a reprise of Limelight really.
When I saw the track list I was wondering if The Knights of the Round Table might be a homage to Monty Python, but it’s actually a very astutely observed lament to the retired occupants of Wetherspoon’s that I’m sure we’ve all encountered if we’ve ever been lured into the chain for a cheeky breakfast. Certainly it rang a few bells we’ve me as I’ve had countless conversations and encounters with characters like this when I’ve visited these pubs. It’s simultaneously sad and lovely in equal measure.
The intriguingly titled Ode to Ozzy isn’t a dedication to Birmingham’s most famous exponent of heavy metal, but to Gaz’s long-suffering tour van who has featured in other songs – this is a cheery song about a man and his trusty (sometimes) vehicle that is obviously a very integral part to how a touring musician makes his living. After this Diabetes Blues is reprised with an update to his original diagnosis – it’s the same song but given a quieter acoustic treatment and new words – it’s really cleverly done.
Finally we end the journey in Cornwall with Cornish Fishing Town, a sprawling slow-based folkier number – it picks up another common theme in Gaz’s music of that wanderlust that compels him tour around to play his music. I could imagine this being quite an anthemic climax to a gig – although the pace never picks up the intensity and layers do – perhaps one for the full band though rather than just Gaz and his guitar. It’s also the song that gives the album it’s title.
In summary, 42 minutes of the kind of well-crafted and performed music I’ve come to take as a given from Gaz – a lovely mixture of pace of sentiment and I’m looking forward to hearing how some of the new songs to me translate to his live performances without a backing band. I would heartily recommend getting yourself online and getting yourself a copy – and beyond that definitely make sure you get to see him performing live whether it be supporting Ferocious Dog or alone (starting with the Maze later this month for me!).