Brian Gladstone,
A Time for New Beginnings
(independent, 2005)

Who is Brian Gladstone? Other than the fact that he is a talented singer, writer and performer, I haven't a clue. I know he has a website, but I am here to review an album and not write his biography, if it is there. And for me, the album is enough. On A Time for New Beginnings we have a selection of 14 songs that show a wellspring of talent.

From the opening chords of the opening track, any music lover should be captivated. There is a very Dylan-like quality in the first track, "A Song for Everyone." Then Gladstone surprises the listener by segueing seamlessly into "Every Day Can be a Sunny Day." I can only describe this as laid-back bluegrass. The wonderful music and lyrics melt into a sunny summer feeling that is lifted even further by the unusual instrument of a human whistling -- a sound not too common on modern songs.

Gladstone will confound your perceptions even more on "I'll Try." This song has the feel of a pop song that would not be out of place from a ranking chart group. But listen closely to the lyrics and you will be all too aware that this is no pop song. The sentiments are beautiful and the lyrics well written.

He is on top form on the marvelous "The Flags of Freedom." This is pure contemporary folk, harking back to the heyday of protest but bringing it bang up to the minute. "Office Tower Blues" marries modern high-rise working city life to country blues more often allied to tumbleweed and desert.

Gladstone is a modern troubadour in his ability to write and sing stories that need to be told. This is most evident on "Conversations with the Past." I hope he will not be upset if I see this as a 21st-century version of "Streets of London." It is meant as a very high compliment.

The genius of Gladstone is that he can move so easily from the profound to the lighthearted, such as "Nag," or the wonderfully titled and conceived "Couch Tomato" -- no, that's not a misprint. One of the best in this light is "Wally's Pre-owned Automobiles." My favourite song here is the title track. It combines a look at nature with the nature of our ability to change things, if we want to.

Ending with another great song of nature, "A Year in the Valley" this is an almost perfect album. It gives the lie to those who think that great observational and protest songs ended in the '60s, not that either the style or sentiments are dated. This is folk music for the 21st century.

by Nicky Rossiter
17 June 2006

[ visit the artist's website ]

Buy it from