Monday, March 30, 2015

Brian Mackey: “Broken Heartstrings” (2014) CD Review

Brian Mackey’s first full-length album, Broken Heartstrings, released late last year, contains all original material, showcasing his excellent songwriting talents. These are mostly acoustic tunes, full of passion and wit. Brian Mackey does all the lead vocals, and plays guitar and keyboard. Joining him on this release are Sam Ashworth on guitar, drums, and backing vocals (he also co-produced the album); Jeff King on guitar and banjo; Mark Hill on bass; and Matt Slocum on cello.

Broken Heartstrings opens with one of my favorite tracks, “Captain Of The Moon,” a delicious and delightful folk tune with pop influences and some nice work on guitar. It’s these lines, and the way Brian Mackey delivers them, that made me first love this song: “If the world melts down, the world melts down/The world melts down to nothin’/If the sky turns brown and we don’t get found/We still have somethin’.” I love the shifting emotions and outlook in this song. It’s a really strong lead-off track.

Another really strong track is “America,” which reminds me at moments of Mumford & Sons and of Jim Infantino (particularly his “Everybody Gets The Blues”). And I love the banjo. This is one to add to your road trip play list, with lines like “We open the windows and the towns fly by so fast/The last gas station we stopped at is somewhere in the past/In America.” This is such a great song, and it’s followed by “Ohio,” which has a quiet strength that pulls you in. And once it has you, the song gives you some lighter moments that are sweet and appreciated: “No, I won’t stop looking, no, I won’t stop searchin’/And it won’t go out, it’ll always be burnin’/’Cause I’m always burnin’ for you.” And I really like this line: “What you see in me is what I feel in you.” This is a beautiful and moving song.

And that beauty makes “Philadelphia,” the following song, even more of a surprise. “Philadelphia” is a humorous song that bursts in like a rock song. In this one, Brian Mackey doesn’t hold back. Clearly, he is angry with someone, opening the song with the line “You’re an elitist bitch and you don’t know shit.” Sure, there’s nothing subtle about that, but I totally dig this song. I like these lines: “You do a wardrobe change and you’re quite deranged/When you walk in the room/You think everyone should know your name/You’re insane.” And the line “But you’re still stuck in Philadelphia” makes me laugh each time I listen to this song. Toward the end he sings, “And one would think with all your sophistication/You’d be able to get out of Philadelphia.” Nice.

Broken Heartstrings concludes with yet another of its highlights, a beautiful song titled “Are You Listening.” Here is a taste of the lyrics: “The only thing that's changed is my point of view/You're still the same old girl I always knew/And you, you gonna stay with me all my life/You, you gonna stay with me all my life/Are you listening? Are you listening?

CD Track List
  1. Captain Of The Moon
  2. Desire
  3. America
  4. Ohio
  5. Philadelphia
  6. Rich Hearts Lullaby
  7. The Day
  8. Medication
  9. Are You Listening 
Broken Heartstrings was released on November 10, 2014.

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