its first EP, Brazos was simply an alias for Austin singer-songwriter Martin Crane, and
some early adopters insist that things were better in those days. But the first
full-length by the band — now a trio — includes two songs that are close to
being Crane solo tracks, and they’re the album’s least interesting. While even
the most produced tracks on Phosphorescent
Blues are stylistically spare, bassist Paul Price and drummer Andy
Beaudoin’s small touches have a major impact.
college-town song-poet, Crane is word-struck enough to include one number,
“The Observer,” that’s adapted from an Adrienne Rich poem. Yet what
distinguishes Phosphorescent Blues are not lyrics, but voices — simple, precise backup “ohs,”
“doos” and “yahs” as much as the frontman’s tenor and
falsetto — and settings. With a fluidity that recalls Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks, such songs as “My
Buddy” and “Tell” shift and glimmer, chug and slide. Brazos’s music isn’t jazz, but such elements as “Day
Glo’s” airy bass show that genre’s fruitful influence.
is not a singular vocalist, and his subject matter can be predictable: “Kid,”
for example, is yet another childhood reminiscence. Yet the song is a knockout,
thanks to its sudden additions and subtractions, its half-buried background
vocals and its ardent refrain. When the parts fit together this well, Crane
should be pleased that Brazos is no longer
than a one-man band.
Standout Tracks: “Kid,”
“My Buddy” MARK JENKINS