January 11, 2012

Fuel/Friends Chapel Session #11 :: Bryan John Appleby

I am enjoying my attempts to weave myself into the city of Portland these last few days, jogging on mossy sidewalks while the grey sky spits rain, breathing the deep smoky-damp smell through my nostrils as I walk to catch the bus, and listening to a lot of music that helps spark and warm that seeping coldness away.

Bryan John Appleby is one of those artists whose music I have been leaning heavily on since I got here for this grad school residency; his music is smart and sharp, steeped in intelligent songwriting and crowned with a piercingly pure voice that resonates with me. He was one of the first artists we welcomed into the chapel when the seasons started to turn from summer to autumn, and the night he came also brought a cold snap that sent us all inside seeking a glow.

Bryan’s debut album Fire On The Vine is thoroughly superb, from front to back. I wrote about him last summer, after seeing him live (it was “decimatingly muscular”) and before the full-length was released. I have been delighted in the craftsmanship and the illumination in this album, which takes a thousand tiny moments and holds them up to let the sun shoot through.

SEPTEMBER 15, 2011

As I sat on the edge of the stage, I had to suppress every fiber of my everloving harmony-singing self here, because this song on the album has incredible, exuberant multi-part choral joy potential. But I found it every bit as wonderful as a solo acoustic creation – something laden with truth and honesty.

Perhaps it is my unique spiritual heritage that seems to connect on several flashpoints with Bryan, but when I listen to his music I see this complicated map of faith sprawl out before me — one that has been folded and refolded til it is faded and worn, trying to figure out how to make it fit, now. This particular song seems to be one of hope, despite lines like: “When I woke, I had been slain in the spirit of reason / Baptized in the rolling dark waters of doubt / ‘Cause I’m told it’s Your will to withhold, but it feels like treason / A rain cloud refusing to pour in a season of drought.

Duncan (Paul Simon)
Bryan’s tenor radiates a clarity in the song that you come across just every once in a while – Paul Simon does it for me in a similar vein, and so I smiled about a thousand feet wide when Bryan launched into this cover of Simon’s 1972 song “Duncan” — so, so perfect. Listen to this and tell me he doesn’t nail it. Plus, he whistles. Yup.

…And The Revelation
This is 1/2 of the sibling duo of songs on his album that repeats the brilliant, brilliant line “you, you will not dig a hole in me, you will not chop down my tree, hold me under the water…” When I saw him live last summer, I just stood there jaw-dropped with the power of that declaration, hearing his defiant howl in concert on these words. For the full effect, also hop over to his Bandcamp and listen to the other part of the thought, “The Words of The Revelator.”

And here is one bonus song that we only have (incredible) video of. Chills:


Later this night, after we recorded in the chapel, Bryan came to do a house show for me and my friends, and in honor of the stormy night, we decided to illuminate the show simply with candles, and sent out a Facebook request for guests to bring a candle or two. We got dozens, and the room flickered and glowed around his stunningly rich music. It was a good night; these are good songs.

I am seeing BJA this very Friday, at the Doug Fir with Pickwick and Jessica Dobson (The Shins, Deep Sea Diver). It is going to be a pret-ty amazing Friday, if I can make it through the week.

[video and that gorgeous still photo with the chapel ceiling by Kevin Ihle]


  • Finally! I’ve been dying for this ever since I saw him at the house show. One of the most emotionally powerful shows I’ve seen in a long time. Please keep the shows coming!

    Bryan — January 11, 2012 @ 9:33 am

  • Oh my goodness.

    Ben — January 11, 2012 @ 9:51 am

  • Great post, and good site design as well. I just discovered your blog this morning from BJA’s facebook post.

    We posted our video session with BJA today as well. (naturalbeardy.com)

    Natural Beardy — January 11, 2012 @ 10:00 am

  • Beautiful! My favourite of the Chapel Sessions so far

    Richard — January 11, 2012 @ 4:00 pm

  • [...] most recent installation of Fuel/Friends Chapel Session features Seattle artist Bryan John Appleby, in which he covers Paul Simon’s “Duncan.” In July [...]

    Bryan John Appleby Covers Paul Simon’s “Duncan” for Chapel Session » Cover Me — January 13, 2012 @ 8:41 am

  • Thank you, a-thousand times over.

    Dainon — January 14, 2012 @ 1:26 pm

  • Very well and he does indeed nail the Paul Simon cover.

    Brian Lambert — January 14, 2012 @ 5:58 pm

  • [...] man who put out my favorite record of 2011, Bryan John Appleby. First, Fuel/Friends posted a 4 song Chapel Session with him, a breathtaking set that showcases the commanding voice Appleby possesses as a performer [...]

    Monday Links | songsfortheday — January 16, 2012 @ 8:31 am

  • That second photo. WHOA.

    (and the tunes too of course!)

    Megan — January 19, 2012 @ 2:32 am

  • Reading how you feel about ‘Sprout’ made me so happy. That’s how the song makes me feel, but I hadn’t been able to describe it. Thanks for another beautiful chapel session.

    Vicky — January 25, 2012 @ 2:52 am

  • I love these chapel sessions.

    If I may, I have one suggestion. I think it would be best to re-label session 1-9 to 01-09 with the zero in front. This way, in the links on the right side of the page they remain in order, as is they are listed 1,10,11,2,3,…

    mike — February 15, 2012 @ 1:01 pm

  • What an excellent idea. I had been miffed that they were out of order, and hadn’t taken time to figure out a (super simple) solution. Thank you!!

    browneheather — February 15, 2012 @ 1:05 pm

  • [...] Check out the entire Fuel/Friends Chapel Session here. [...]

    Realizing The World Is Asleep « Heycoolkid! — April 24, 2012 @ 6:22 am

  • I listened to Bryan John Appleby’s music. Sounds good, true and down to earth.

    Dan Whitney — March 11, 2015 @ 10:21 pm

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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