The name that came back to me was California singer-songwriter Brett Dennen. He’s from Oakdale, which is a tiny town I know in California whose greatest feature is either their rodeo I went to once (for real) or the Hershey factory on the way to Yosemite that makes the air smell really, really edible.
The funny thing is that when I also did a search on my gmail for Brett Dennen (because I knew I’d heard the name before), I got multiple results of emails from you readerfolk ranging back to last October telling me to take a listen to this guy. So okay, I give, and I should’ve given sooner. I can be stubborn sometimes. Kid has talent, music has verve, there is a unique voice here that I enjoy. It’s a expressive tenor that cracks and wavers, and makes your ears perk up and stop to take a closer listen. The music is generally acoustic guitar finger-picking-based but with underlying elements of understated funk and reggae that elevates these songs beyond sad-sap fare to something pretty catchy. I’ll admit I hear influence as widely ranging as Paul Simon, Ben Harper, Paolo Nutini, and Jack Johnson.
My only regret (petty, selfish woman) is that he just got tapped to open for John Mayer and I am now even farther from liking John Mayer than I was before, after reading Weiss’ slamdunk lampoon on him (“Yo, J, y’all“). But it’s definitely good for Brett to get the exposure. He’s got a slew of tour dates coming up, some with folks like Suzanne Vega and Damien Rice, and I hear very positive things about his live shows.