February 27, 2017 Leave a comment
Longtime reader(s) of Trainwreck’d will definitely remember an interview we did with Brian Vander Ark a few years ago that was a real treat to add to the collection. Such a sweet and wonderfully talented dude. And in that interview, we brought up the fact that The latest album from his group The Verve Pipe happened to feature some guitar work from a man that I had always assumed was just an amazing actor, Jeff Daniels, (one of the greatest performances in a film since Nicholson in Cuckoo’s Nest was from Jeff with his performance in The Squid and the Whale), but turned out to have a bit of guitar chops to him as well. I remember going back and checking out some more work and live videos and what not of Jeff playing and singing and seriously had a thought that went sort of like this: “Man, it would be so cool if Brian and Jeff put out an album together. That would be so cool.” Well folks, I am hear to tell you that I might be a god damned fortune teller, because here we are now. Although I will admit, I could have never guessed just how great a full blown collaboration between the two would be. And I’m also here to tell you folks, it’s really is that damn good. I’d like tell you more if you would care to listen.
Simple Truths is a spectacular album through and through. I feel like I need to get that out first off. For fans of very straight forward country & blues driven songs, this album will simply blow your mind. The songs are mostly dark, yet only mildly depressing. But the sadness seems to only walk the brink along the lines of Johnny Cash’s work with Rick Rubin in his later years before circling back into their own special brand of cool & collective brand of exploration into the simple truths (pun intended) of life, love, worry, regret, and the metaphorically emptied bar stool of death and loss. And I can’t forget to mention, the tracks are catchy as hell at points!
Some of the songs touch on some very serious matters that feel deeply personal and the likes of which we can only imagine spark a fire deep in the soul of both Brian and Jeff. Brian’s tearjerker of track “Behold the Brave” made me want to reach out to my own father as fast as digitally possible to remind him that I love him. And Jeff’s political lament within “Another American Down” can fuel the fire of anyone searching for answers in these strange and trying political times, but just can’t quite seem to find the answers. Some very serious shit is happening here, and it is truly amazing. But, it’s not all gloom and sadness, I must add. The Vander Ark voiced “Four Wheel Drive” is a nice twang infused down home country song that will get your toes a tapping’ before the blues come back around. I wouldn’t say it is a “silly song”, but it’s about as lighthearted as you are going to get, and is just a truly fun song to embrace before the dark.
But, the darkness definitely comes swiftly back around with two tracks that are personally my favorite of the bunch. “Forevers Over Just Like That” is a seriously dark track that brings the album as close as it ever gets to the fore mentioned Cash & Rubin sessions. It’s so dark, yet might be able to be misinterpreted and as a full on suicide note to the average listener. But, a listener who may dig deeper into a listen should recognize that that is not entirely true. I won’t pretend to know what exactly Daniels is getting at (I’d love to ask him someday!) with the song, I just know that it is so damn real and beautiful and is just about one of the most beautiful blues heavy country songs I have heard in the last decade (and I listen to a shit ton of Blitzen Trapper, mind you!). The other track, and my favorite by far I have to had, is another one fronted Jeff called “Hurry Home” that is absolutely mesmerizing with it’s old school country vibe that feels like it could have been toured with the Highwaymen several decades ago. It’s absolutely brilliant, straight forward, blues driven country music. It has all of the elements that make country music incredible, and none of the elements that make it a disgusting mess at time. I don’t say this too often…but I truly believe that “Hurry Home” is a a perfectly arranged song. The chorus is catchy, the story is heart felt, and Daniels is at his height of blues craftsmanship on this track.
Overall, I have to say, listening to this album is an all around wonderful experience. It has taken a lot of effort lately for me to really dig in to find new music that is worthwhile and can make me turn off a podcast every now and again, to hear a story set to some well played music. And that is exactly what Simple Truths can be summed up as: A brilliant collection of stories with some amazing guitar work and outstanding vocals. Just a damn good album altogether.
You can pick up a copy of the album at jeffdaniels.com, which also where you can discover a lot more of his music work that is also incredible. You can find more stuff form Brian and brianvanderark.com. And for those of you who may be new to TWS, you can check out our previous interview with Brian, as well as our review for The Verve Pipe’s Overboard, in which we originally talked about how great Jeff’s guitar work was, and what would eventually lead me to realize that maybe I can see the future, but I may never understand just how bright it can be. Because these guys exceeded all expectations with this amazing album!