Bruce Von Stiers
Brian Straw has a storytelling style that has been compared to Bruce Springsteen. He has had a long tenure with the strife of love and life. So Brian has a lot of stories to tell.
These stories of Brian's have cumulated into an album titled Baby Stars / Dead Languages. It is a debut album that was over 20 years in the making.
Brian began his musical career in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. But fame was elusive. Along the way, Brian went through times of alcohol abuse, finding and losing love and having life just beat him down. But about four years ago, Brian got sober and starting become serious about his music once again.
Having more than enough material based on his life experiences, Brian began to put songs together for this album. Some songs were new, others re-workings of songs he'd written over the years. The result was Baby Stars / Dead Languages, which has already gathered a lot of advance praise.
There are twelve songs on the album, and it has a play time of fifty-nine minutes. It was produced, recorded and mixed by Brian at his home studio, Survival Kit. Brian wrote all but one song on the album.
Brian did the lead vocals on the album. Backing vocals were done by Emily Keener, Bethany Joy and Alex Tapie. Helping out on the music side of things were Al Moss on pedal steel, Mike Tolan on bass, Bill Lestock on guitar, bass, violin and mandolin and Chase Ockuly and Nick Cross on guitar. Drums and percussion were done by Tony Cross and Dan Price. And Rob Kovacs, whom I have reviewed before, helps out on piano and organ. Most or all of these artists hang around Cleveland so it seemed like a good fit to have them on the album.
The first couple of songs on the album, Sleep Study and I Have Not Wandered (Far From You), have a kind of Springsteen type of vibe. Sleep Study has strong drum and violin backing music and fluid, yet haunting vocals by Brian. I Have Not Wandered ( Far From You) is a ballad about getting better and wanting to get back with her.
I Still Dream of You has a lighter sound but is still a heart-rending ballad. This song was written by fellow Ohioan Joseph Allen Beltram.
Needle In The Creek has a lot of great guitar and steel pedal. Again, Brian brings strong vocals in front of the music.
Other songs on the album include Murmurations, Underground, Microdream and Close Enough To Know.
One song that I felt should have been done a bit differently was Keys To My Room. The music seemed to overshadow everything else. But maybe that was how Brian envisioned the song.
Shame & Desire had an almost orchestral opening that transitioned into a cool rock infused tune. Out of Doors is a slow and easy, yet haunting, ballad.
Brian ends the album with the terrific folk sounding ballad Half-Buried Crow.
Life's ups and downs, heartbreak and addiction have always made for good storytelling in songs. Brian Straw definitely has done some of that with the songs on this album. Addiction, recovery, finding love, losing love and trying for redemption are central themes in Brian's music. The songs are well written, the music is excellent and the vocals are very good.
Baby Stars / Dead Languages is set to be released late in January, 2022.
To learn more about Brian Straw, visit his website at www.brianstraw.org
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