- Tim Brick, Just Passin' Through
(Self-released, CD, digital download)
Tim Brick has a restless soul. But his is precisely the sort of wanderlust befitting a classically molded country crooner. Throughout his career, Brick has followed in one of the great Americana traditions: looking to the road for inspiration. On his 2009 debut, Borderline, and his 2011 follow-up, Free to Run, the call of America's wide-open highways was a thematic cornerstone. Couple that yearning with an equally captivating pull to flee one's hometown, and you could practically hear the Barre native plotting to leave one day.
Last year, Brick did just that. He packed up his Stetson hat, dusty boots and six-string and made tracks for the live-music capital of the world: Austin, Texas. But his stay was brief: Brick lasted only a few months there before returning to Vermont. Still, the experience proved profound enough to inspire the songwriter's latest record, Just Passin' Through.
Historically, Brick's best moments are those in which he ditches genre clichés in favor of more individualized sentiments. That remains true on Just Passin' Through — though at 14 cuts, finding those moments can require patience. Opener "Country Style," for example, essentially plays like a checklist of every trope in modern country music: faded jeans, dirt roads, pickup trucks, cold beer, etc. Brick's affinity for small-town pleasures is genuine enough, as he makes abundantly clear throughout the album. But the delivery here is just too generic.
However, for every clunker like "Country Style," there are cuts such as "Busted in Texas." Here Brick gets personal, riffing on his time in the Lone Star State with heartfelt insight and feeling. He might still lean on the occasional lyrical crutch, but he overcomes them with raw energy and grit. The same could be said of several other tracks, too, such as the steel-guitar-powered "Runnin' in the Night" and the neon-buzzed "Bar Light Memory." Both are among his best songs ever.
As always, Brick models himself after the giants of 1970s outlaw country, in particular Messrs. Jennings, Haggard, Paycheck and Cash. He sings with a barrel-chested baritone and a swaggering drawl. Brick doesn't try to reinvent the wheel, musically or lyrically. But, on Just Passin' Through, he has penned some of his finest work.
Just Passin' Through by Tim Brick is available at CD Baby. Brick plays on Saturday, September 16, at Moogs Place in Morrisville.