February 21, 2002

Test Spin: Brer Brian – The Man with the Artichoke Heart

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The word “independent” is used a bit too freely in the current music world. Brer Brian, on the other hand, is genuine, down-home “DIY” artistry in the purist. The Man With The Artichoke Heart reveals the inspiration of guitar reconstructionist John Fahey and the eccentricities of Zappa and Captain Beefheart, but Brian is ultimately his own man. The disc’s no-frills production lends itself to the songs, carried by Brian’s guttural guitar work and cleverly comical lyrics.

Brer Brian certainly has the potential to take the helm of this new generation of anti-folksters. Artichoke Heart begins with the salvation-seeking, hymn-ish “The Good Word of God.” Then, Brian somehow makes the swing classic “Sing Sing Sing” sound energetically full with just six strings, some makeshift percussion and a chorus of his friends. His own songs, such as the lovely ode to his brain, “Oh, Cerebellum,” are equal parts heartfelt genius and mischievous hilarity. The title track is a wonderfully quirky narrative dripping with distortion. Brer Brian performs this Friday at Collegetown Bagels.

Archived article by Ben Kupstas