Austin songwriter, Steve Brooks, gave some seriously good advice in the June feature of Stave by instructing songwriters, “don’t be afraid to murder your little darlings.” When you say something like that, you have to be really sure of your own song craft. To be concise, Brooks is a master lyricist. He wraps words around tunes that feel familiar and are, therefore, accessible. He also gives his production over to a solid producer, Chris Gage. That means high talent in the supporting roles of Brooks’ latest release, “Chasing Grace.”
Brooks’ vocal style falls into that category of great artists who present lasting word craft with a plaintive voice, much like a Woody Guthrie, Hank Williams, or Willie Nelson or Bob Dylan. And much like Nelson and Dylan, Brooks voice has seasoned and gotten better over time. It’s kind of like the perfect songwriters’ voice; which is the voice born to sing songs about real people.
Brooks writes and sings about love, spirituality, and ordinary people who experience profound lives. Track 3, “Iowa Wind” is a great example of Brooks’ sly ability to demonstrate how the things we perceive as ordinary are really extraordinary. An educated man is humbled by the force of nature in the story of the song. However, “Paradise” is a prime example of Brooks’ mastery of lyrics. Whenever a reviewer repeats lines of a song to impart on the reader what she means, I think it flops, so I’m going to tell you that you need to buy this CD and listen to this song. You will cry. The fulcrum of the song is the line, “Paradise will never be the same,” but I cannot write it in prose as it is written in song by Brooks. A theme is established, and something close to a short story emerges. (I will not put this song on the Stave Player because I want to make you support excellence. Buy the CD). The song stays with the listener for a long, long time.
And so this compilation of songs goes. Ordinary themes, settings and ideas take on monumental themes via perfectly placed words riding on catchy tunes. I can’t really say this body of work is dark because it’s not. It’s just so intimate that it brings up that burning in the throat that begs one to cry because it’s something mindful, compassionate people do. So maybe that’s the short version. “Chasing Grace” is a record of compassion.
– Christy Claxton