Artist: Russ Glenn
Album: A Brand New Earth
Genre: Alternative Folk/Pop
Sounds Like: Jack Johnson, REM
Production/Musicianship Grade: 9/10
Commercial Value: 8/10
Overall Talent Level: 9/10
Songwriting Skills: 8/10
Performance Skill: 9/10
Best Songs: Curbside, Your Birthday, Jane Says
I was thinking that maybe it was just my mood last Friday – I was excited because it was the day before a vacation, and I was head-bopping all day as I gave this disc repeated listens. But a few more listens later, I’m convinced – Russ Glenn’s A Brand New Earth is a treat on any day.
Glenn plays all the guitar on the album, and his earthy vocals sound like a smoother, more in-tune Michael Stipe. The opener “Stick” catchily layers crunchy electric over driving acoustic. It also has a cool, quirky chord progression and a hooky refrain worthy of the title. “Blind” begins as a yearning acoustic guitar-and-bass number before it bursts into a nice midtempo lope.
On “Goodbye” Glenn stretches his vocal range a bit higher, but he’s always in control. The heavy backbeat of the verses is juxtaposed with the straight-ahead power pop of the chorus.
And those first three cuts are excellent, but the brilliant “Curbside” is in another stratosphere. Seth Kibel’s squawking sax gives this a wildly jazzy vibe, and then Glenn turns on the effects-drenched guitar. All this over Scott Harlan’s bubbling bass and yet another rock-solid performance by drummer Andy Hamburger.
Glenn then offers a percussion-laced cover of one of my old favorites, Jane’s Addiction’s “Jane Says” (in which he quotes Tina Turner's "What's Love Got To Do With It"). And later he does a languid take on Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane” that is sweetened by Harlan’s piano.
Glenn’s bio states that he is the father of young children, and another deep-groove standout, “Your Birthday” shows that proud dads can rock. The song is built around hypnotically simple riffs that a jam-band guy like me just don’t want to end. Next, “Don’t Say Goodnight” has a wistful calypso/reggae feel to it and is a natural follow-up in both music and theme to the buoyant “Birthday.”
“Path to the Gallows” is another good one, a straight-ahead folk rocker that tells a bittersweet, evocative tale. And the closing “This Land” is a prettily strummed environmental ode, just guitar and plaintive vocal.
One change that might have made this disc more cohesive would have been to re-order the tracks so the latter half wasn’t so folk-heavy. But that’s a minor detail. Russ Glenn delivers succinct, memorable messages in his writing, and the musicianship breathes crisp, organic life into his creations.