Keven Brennan - "God Is A Mighty Gourd"
(f.Boo Music 2004, fbcd 10005
From Aural Innovations #30 (February 2005)
Interested in a comprehensive history of recent American music? Keven Brennan's new CD comes to you from basement home studios via complex Zappa-esque Jazz Rock through the swamps of Louisiana into California street cafés in which poems are set to musical accompaniment as short stories. This is all produced at a state of the art level of technology - and by the way mastered by Joe Gastwirt, a legend in his field - and is thoroughly radio worthy. Ok, I suppose when radio stations and big record companies recognized this, we in hip underground households can listen to the radio again. What is particularly unusual on this CD is that there are two backup bands, Kneebody and Orgone, which are supplemented by other studio musicians. In terms of polish, this project is hard to beat, and yet it still retains it's underground credibility. There is no record company behind it, and also the distribution is completely independent. Although emails are indeed responded to, even when Keven is not at home, and despite the fancy address in Burbank (where the majors are also located), the f. Boo label is nonetheless Keven Brennan's and his wife Robin's own small company.
The opening track, "Seven", is the only song without a whole lot of production. Keven Brennan sings and plays all the instruments except drums. His wife Robin commandeers the background vocals through which the dramatic, yet unobtrusive moaning brings to mind a drunken "whore with a bible in her hand", to quote the lyrics. "Pipple People" is probably the most complex piece on the CD, parts of it might even seem like outtakes from Zappaıs album "Hot Rats". But there are also passages too folksy for Zappa. Perhaps it sounds more like a collaboration between Zappa and Steely Dan. "Oceanıs Levity" is a piece of superior American songwriter folk with a bar-jazz bridge in which Robin Brennanıs fantastic singing voice fully comes into itıs own. "Sarah" is pure Americana folk with a melting voice and a wailing slide guitar and yet without being kitschy - a beautiful and respectable example of the genre. "Bang, Bang, Bang" is Funk-Rock of the Steely Dan variety, unholy fuck music, not right for Keven's wife, so Gracy May sings the filthy, sexy backing vocals including pre-amble and post-script. "Martian Jelly Beans" is Space-Folk from the year 2025 well disguised in electric instruments and full-on funk which in the long instrumental outro is accompanied by synthy space sounds. "The Journey" leads directly to New Orleans - warm greetings to and from Doc Pomus and Dr. John - totally authentic with the Wurlitzer Organ, Gospel choir, and old school horn lines you can only play right when the heat is bad enough to crack the asphalt. "Never Ask If I Treat Her Right" remains in the Mississippi Delta, more like country-style blues funk mixed with big city coolness. As if some back woods pimp with a nasal dialect happens to be visiting the city for the weekend. "The Machine is Edible but Not Digestible" has a New York gangster vibe, bringing to mind Mink De Ville whose career began in the basement bars of New York. One clever detail is the extensive contribution of the kazoo, the little plastic horn that was invented in the Sixties and then became popular among street musicians which here works wonders in conveying the wildness and danger of the streets. "Pajamas, No Pajamas" is a short piece of intense Latin funk. On the surface, happy and laid back but with a tinge of bitterness. "Their Bodies Have Not Yet Washed Ashore" certainly has it's roots in the spoken word performances of hipsters and beatniks who were the 1950 predecessors of the hippies. However, Keven Brennan is not delivering a poem here but, in the best tradition of the genre, a complete short story, which is dramatically supported throughout by the music. The subject of this spoken "film" is the friendship between a young man and a fisherman whose excursion comes to a tragic and fatal end, the pain of the father who narrates the story, and the higher power that allows is to happen: God Is A Mighty Gourd. Thus, the title of the CD.
"God Is A Mighty Gourd" is by no means Pop, and yet it is listener friendly. It can be enjoyed while cooking, ironing, reading the newspaper or having a glass of wine. This would be the perfect radio music in a slightly less commercialized world. The music in itself is so agreeable that it doesnıt impose itself on you, but it is also deep and vast enough to deserve a focused un-distracted listening. Despite the stylistic diversity itıs still not eclectic, which it achieves through a simple but profound trick: Instead of bouncing from Folk to Funk to Rock to Jazz, it encompasses the full breadth of demanding modern American entertaining music by fusing many different genres into facets of the same kind of music. A CD like a good friend.
For more information you can visit the Keven Brennan web site at: http://www.fBoo.com.
Reviewed by Frank Gingeleit