Canadian singer-songwriter Don Brownrigg came to our attention last year with his single ‘Room For Me’; three and a half minutes of what is best described as world-feariness, employing nothing more than a delicately-picked guitar, baritone vocal and gossamer-light strings. Its closing line of “I’m not sure, I’m not sure, I’m not sure I’m not crazy” captures a vulnerability that instantly made us want to know more of the story.
And know more we can, as Brownrigg dissects relationships gone awry on his latest record, Fireworks. The album travels between Iron & Wine fragility (‘From You’) and Dave Matthewsesque punchiness (‘Bad Timing’) and even makes room for a cover of ‘Tom’s Diner’ along the way. The arrangement of the Suzanne Vega classic lands us in the musical landscape of some crooked travelling circus; the ringmaster whispering spookily in your ear. It’s a gamble to take on such a well-loved, iconic track but it’s one that pays off.
When the songs are stripped to the bones, this record really is at its finest and songs like ‘Nowhere At All’ and ‘Strum & Rhyme’ spotlight a vocal that crumbles with warmth and intimacy against rickety piano and unfussy guitar in turn. The light-touch atmospherics do the rest and due credit here should go to producer Daniel Ledwell who, alongside playing the bass, is also responsible for the album’s judiciously placed horns.
The stuttering heartbeat of closing track ‘You Know’ sees the record drifting off in a haze of keyboard shimmers - think Beck circa Sea Change. It perfectly conjures the fug of time spent reflecting and regretting, which is really what Fireworks is all about. There’s wisdom of experience here which will be appreciated by people who look for lyrical (as well as musical) maturity in their singer-songwriters. It’ll likewise appeal to anyone trying to make sense of the metaphorical sparks that fly at a relationship’s end - you never know, Brownrigg may just be able to lead you out of the ensuing darkness.
Review by Rich Barnard