Simply put, Brigitte London is one the best singers of our time, and if you have heard her, you’re nodding in agreement right now.
On Tuesday (6-21) she will release her latest record called Bare Bones, which as the name implies, is just her, a guitar, and a little bit of reverb. No band, no bull, just Brigitte’s bold voice and beautiful songs. It was recorded at the studio for the band Vallejo.
“I was talking with Omar (Vallejo) about wanting to do an acoustic record, and instead of using a full band even with an acoustic based sound, I decided to just go in with my guitar. Omar poured us some Gentleman Jack, I sat down with my guitar and ran through the songs while he rolled tape, and kept them warts and all – so that they were real. No do overs.”
This may sound like a lazy, low-budget alternative to a fleshed out LP, but the effect is mining the pure heart of Brigitte’s songs, and forging a memorable, noteworthy project.
I wonder what would happen to most of the pop country stars in Nashville nowadays if you stripped them down to their bare bones: took away their nine-piece nameless band in the back shadows of the stage, hid their auto-tuners, handed them an acoustic guitar and said “good luck” as a lonely stool awaited them at stage center. With Bare Bones, Brigitte takes this dare willingly, bearing all brave-faced and bold, with the result being some of her best music to date.
Good songwriters write good songs. Great songwriters know how to write good songs that also play to their strengths. Brigitte London exemplifies this, matching the sweet spot of her vocal range with the poignant moments in the lyrics, driving the theme of the song home like a dagger in a broken heart. The inflections and runs she delivers with her voice are no less mesmerizing than a maestro with their instrument. She’s purified soul that is so painful it transcends genre, and she meshes it all together with subtly masterful guitar playing.
Stripped down, Brigitte is allowed at times to toy with tempo. Nothing is in danger of diluting the dynamics of her voice, or walking over the subtitles of her surprising guitar playing. In the 90’s acoustic albums were all the rage, spurned on by MTV’s “Unplugged.” Then it began to feel contrived. But with Brigitte, it feels just right. When listening to her other music with a band, you hear different things now, you spy the subtitles, you appreciate the skeleton from which the meat of the song hangs.
There’s no better example of how Music Row lets the best talent of our time slip away in lieu of the glittering sugar high of pop than Brigitte London. Her song “Fools Gold” on the surface is about jilted love, but seems to take a double meaning:
“You want what you have, to stay the same
Don’t rock the boat, don’t speak my name
But nothing is as it seems, someday you will know
That a diamond slipped through your fingers
When you grabbed on to Fools Gold.”
I will say that this album is not for every mood, or every moment. Individually all the songs can stand alone, but this may not be the best album to listen to cover to cover. Standout tracks are the brilliant lyricism of “Desperately,” the aforementioned “Fools Gold,” and Brigitte’s new take on her signature song “Saddle Mountain,” as well as her take on Roger Alan Wade’s “The Reckless Kind,” which is the only song on the album she didn’t write. My favorite was the title track “Bare Bones,” which about perfectly matches songwriting with the concept of this album.
Most music is by men, for men. My guess is this record, just like Brigitte’s others, will speak to women in their own language, without alienating the male listener. Brigitte does a beautiful job portraying the hard, strong exterior of an “Outlaw” woman, without being afraid of showing the frail side as well. In Bare Bones, there’s nothing to hide behind.
Bare Bones is available at Brigitte London live shows, and will be available through iTunes and other digital distributors on June 21st.