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Reviews
Album Review -
Music, at least that which is worth listening to, should be played by those with a pure passion for the craft. Music cannot and should not be a career choice, a result of a scholastic path, or some other such formulated plan but should rather come from the heart. It should be the result of passion, bursting forth from an artist whether or not the money is flowing. Its all too easy once the dollar signs appear to keep phoning in the same old, same old in order to keep the party line going.
Thankfully, there are artists out there, like Brian Hazelbower, who could give a damn about the party line. Sure, Hazelbower would no doubt love to make millions off his music but, in the meantime, hes going to keep playing no matter what comes and it shows in his approach to the music. A product of the Nanaimo, BC music scene, Hazelbower finds his latest effort, Back to the Muse, offering up a very well produced sound, largely in part to the deft hands of Andrew Oye. Add in backing from a well-seasoned set of studio musicians who obviously love the music, and youre in for a treat.
And what a treat it is. Hazelbower is truly an artist who loves his craft, crafting warm, heartfelt songs and complementing them with solid, approachable arrangements that flow genuinely well. That approach kicks off in grand style with Instant Attraction, a good old fashioned honkytonk toe-tapper that showcases the artists rich baritone and some nice electric guitar work. Things keep rolling smoothly as Ordinary Man makes its way to the front with a low-key vibe that calls to mind something of George Straits with nice fiddle fills and a radio friendly production.
Everytime I Think of You slows things down with its declaration of love from a father to his daughter while Its Not Me, Its You turns the tables with a playful arrangement that contains a rather serious lyrical tale of a marriage lost to alcohol abuse. But its with Drinkin In the Dark that Hazelbower really makes a splash. Possessed of a moody, minor chord feel and accented with some great guitar work, the artist offers up such great lines as "It takes two to make love but just one to make love die" and "Its lonely thoughts that live in the dead of night Like regrets that rest by day find breath in fading light". With a killer arrangement like that and such poignant, thoughtful lyrics, Hazelbower definitely shows hes no one-trick pony.
The artist brings a little bit of levity with Whoopie Stinkin Doo, a playful, full-fledged Texas two-step with all the right pieces in place to help offset the lighthearted lyric. Driving percussion and a tale of lost love fuel Givin In while So Many Women taps into the vein of fun with its barroom jumper filled with plucky strings and a great vocal showcasing from Hazelbower.
Unfortunately, the next two tracks dont quite produce whats come before. You and Me is a solid, radio-friendly feeling love ballad but it suffers a bit from a muddied vocal production and sonically just fails to inspire even though its well performed. This is the same fate that lies in wait for its counterpart Forever In My Heart. Despite a well-intentioned lyric and feel, the song just doesnt get up and go anywhere, especially contrasted with the performances already offered.
Yet Hazelbower has saved some of his best for last. Long Long Way, a lyrical tale of the artists journey back to music, is a mood-filled bluesy bit of introspection that is more alt rock than country but stands strong on its own. And album closer, The Harbour City Beat, is just pure fun, celebrating the joys of the Nanaimo music scene with a blues/R&B flavored sound that features a killer horn section and smoking guitars.
Brian Hazelbower is an artist who doesnt do music for any other reason than that he loves it and that oozes through each and every pore of Back to the Muse. Possessed of strong production, savvy arrangements, and great performances, theres no reason that this record couldnt propel the artist to the next league. This is music that rings true and pure to the ear and thats all one can ask.
--Review by Andrew Greenhalgh - Southwest Florida - music writer, content editor, and lifestyle commentator - July 2012
Bartender
“Hell yah, that dog can hunt. Play that song at 10 o’ clock at Legends Corner and you’re the king.”
--Ralph Murphy - veteran songwriter/publisher/producer - Assistant VP ASCAP Nashville Jan 05
You've Got A Hold On Me - John Hyatt"ish"
Reminds me of John Hyatt. Which is cool.Melody is real nice. Guitars sound good as do the bass & drums. I like the harmonies as well.I think the chorus has got a decent hook ....I remember it well after it ended so that's a good sign.Anyway I'm sold because the singer reminds me of Hyatt.....real good voice.....I guess you can say that "You got a Hold on Me".
--Tony "fiz” d'Mattia, Levittown, New York, GarageBand.com, Jan 05
You've Got A Hold On Me - pinch me now
Cool song! Great hook and harmonies in this upbeat and to-the-point country gem. Short and sweet like all of the best country songs. You kept it simple and it worked. The melody is good and the band is very tight. Reminds me of Jimmy Buffet with that almost island feel to this country song. Don't go changin' this sound; it works!
--Dee Hawks, Lexington, Kentucky, GarageBand.com, Jan 05
One In A Million - Catchy
Nice guitar intro. Vocals are good, he has a nice big tone. Song itself is good with a catchy melody. Solo break is well played
--MikeTighe, Windsor, Ontario, GarageBand.com, Oct 04
One In A Million - Riveting and Refreshing
I really like this one, great tone and beat, nice smoothe vocal, real country and good lead geetar great material for tv, like Brooks and Dunn, good job, got my vote
sheamrock from Bunnell, Florida
--James Connolly , Forida, GarageBand.com, Oct 04
Bartender - A fresh take on tradition
Very tradional 'poor me another glass of beer' country but at the same time delivered in a fresh original way. In my mind that is good, entertaining music if it has some irony included in the delivery - something these guys seems to have ! A love of country music shines through the performance wich is high quality both with respect to playing and vocal delivery. I especially liked the fiddle! Arrangement and production suits the song well with a live feelcomming through.
--Thor Nummedal, GarageBand.com, Oct 04
Bartender
This is the best Country heard I've heard since I saw Dale Watson a few months back. Great job. Great Hook. The Song and production are top.
--Michael Kelleher, San Francisco GarageBand.com, Oct 04