Terry Brennan,
Storms & Dreams
(MAPL/Factor, 2004)

His publicity labels him an "urban country folk artist," whatever that means. The country is easy to see, and a strong dose of folk-rock, but Terry Brennan has an identity quite beyond that. Many of the songs on Storms & Dreams have a strong, classic country sound to them, and some don't. I'm not going to worry about that overmuch. He's good. That's all I'm concerned with.

Brennan's history seems to be intimately involved with the clubs in Toronto, where he eagerly listened to and learned from the likes of Gordon Lightfoot, Phil Ochs, Buffy St. Marie and Joni Mitchell. He's been a cowboy, forest ranger, actor, miner and a few other things, which seems like a good resume for a singer-songwriter.

I don't go nuts over this type of music, normally, but have no grudge against it, and am more than happy to listen to good artists. In fact, I number among my favorite singers such figures as Ochs, St. Marie, Mitchell, Dolly Parton and a very few others, because I think they're good -- actually, beyond good. Brennan has pretty much joined that company on the basis of this album. On a preliminary listening, which I tend to do with new artists before I start writing, the disc was playing while I was doing something else and then came "Chained to My Freedom," at which point my ears perked up and I hit the volume control. It's the kind of song that's guaranteed to get my attention: strong lyrics, catchy rhythms, a killer refrain and terrific support from the backup singers and musicians. Needless to say, I started listening more closely.

Brennan's voice is a classic country-western instrument. It has an unschooled quality that adds an element of undeniable truth to his songs, apparent from the very first track, "Jealous Winds." He then moves into "This Heart of Mine," like most of the songs on this disc a song about loss, echoed in a yearning quality in his vocals that has made this one already seem like an old favorite as it moves into a good ol' country rocker.

There's only so much to be said: I like this one a lot, simply because it's good -- his material is first-rate, his voice is perfect for the material and the support is superb. There are flashes of brilliance in this album that add another layer of excitement to a good, solid collection of music.

Personnel: Terry Brennan, lead vocals, acoustic guitar; Charlie Hase, lap steel, pedal steel guitars; Robbie Steininger, guitars, mandolin; Jerry Adolphe, drums; Lee Oliphant, bass; Neal Thompson, bass ("Courting Time"); Doug Schmidt, accordion, Victor Smith, violin; Marianne Grittani, Janet Russell, Meg Tennant, supporting vocals.

by Robert M. Tilendis
11 February 2006