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]

September 16, 2011

when her feet hit the ground / she could still hear the sound

So this happened last night:

September 15, 2011

Bryan John Appleby TONIGHT: A Fuel/Friends House Concert

This morning is grey and it’s been raining since yesterday afternoon. I slept listening to raindrops on the roof, under my big winter blanket I brought up from the basement, and was completely content.

Bryan John Appleby is from Seattle, so he’ll come into this misty town tonight and feel right at home. After completely winning the stages he played on at Doe Bay, he is playing a house show for me tonight, along with chapel session alums The Changing Colors.

I can’t think of a better rainy September record than his new one Fire On The Vine that you guys helped Kickstart. His songs are literate and richly gorgeous.

Listen to this whole song and tell me that you don’t get shivers just imagining what it’s like live. Yes, it’s like that.

Glory – Bryan John Appleby

See you tonight at 8.

June 14, 2011

not one good reason left to keep me / but please don’t let me go

Bryan John Appleby crafts thoughtful, melodic music about complicated relationships and desires, from his home in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. The singer-songwriter path is well-trod in every city, and Seattle is no different, but Bryan sets his music on a higher plane with the incisively intelligent way that he can wrap words around a tenuous moment. He said in an interview, “I write my best when I’m reading lots of books and listening to lots of bands and songwriters.” I think that comes through in his music, with a variety of historical, literary, spiritual, and relational groundings. It’s no wonder I fell for him.

My first listens of this song reminded me of the best, most achingly open parts of Blind Pilot songs. This is a song about the tension and the gulf between wanting someone and actually having them. There is SO much raw vulnerability in the way Bryan sings “not one good reason left to keep me / but please don’t let me go.” I am reminded of the old adage about how we need love the most when we deserve it the least.

Every line in this song seems to strip something in me bare, like when he sings, “I am roaming through the darkness, I am rambling through the night / I will find you soon my darling, be sure and hold the light.” Have you read No Country for Old Men? If so, this reminds me of the last page.

Fixin to make a fire somewhere out there in all that dark and all that cold….

Cliffs Along The Sea – Bryan John Appleby

And the gorgeous video for this song, by Christian Sorensen Hansen (who made this and this also), with Bryan singing on a lake whilst being paddled around by a harmonizing Mychal from Campfire OK:

[so pretty that you should watch it larger]

I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Bryan perform live last Friday night at the High Dive in Seattle, with a full backing band. The words I used afterwards were: “decimatingly muscular.” KEXP’s Hannah Levin called him “One To Watch” in the Seattle Weekly last summer, and finally getting to see him live myself, I completely agree. As well-crafted and piercing as the EP is, hearing the new material and seeing how his songs catalyze and explode in the live setting got me very excited for his upcoming full-length release, Fire On The Vine.

Bryan just launched a Kickstarter campaign yesterday to help fund the final steps of this new album. The songs are done being recorded, and he just needs advance commitment from folks who want to have it when it is released (on vinyl too!). As a refresher: Kickstarter is a rad way for lovers of music to commit in advance to the album that is yet to come, and in doing so get some sweet perks (a mixtape from Bryan! a handwritten letter! a personalized cover!).

I recommend you support this worthy artist who has something true and beautiful to say.

Also, hey — he’ll be playing at the Doe Bay Fest in August, for those of us who are lucky enough to be heading to Orcas Island! So get excited.

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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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