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Green Eyed Alone
Artist:  Erik Brandt
Label: Mercy Recordings
Time: 13 tracks/37:20 min.

On 2002's fine Amelia's Boot, singer/songwriter Erik Brandt tacked his name in front of the Urban Hillbilly Quartet moniker.  Now Green Eyed Alone finds Brandt completing the re-branding by dropping the UHQ name entirely.  Several UHQ stalwarts remain--most notably guitarist and co-producer Jeremy Szopinski--and members of The Jayhawks, Romantica, and Ticklepenny Corner drop in to make significant contributions.

Adjusting to the 2004 departure of fiddler Sena Thompson and bassist Greg Tippett, Brandt has retooled his sound, constructing the new album around his piano and Szopinski's twangy guitar leads.  Slightly less eclectic than its predecessor, Green Eyed Alone feels like a more cohesive work.  Where the instrumental tracks on Amelia's Boot were used as transitions between its distinct themes, this album's piano instrumentals help give the record a seamless flow.

After a brief, playful piano instrumental, the waltz "Shooting Star" blends Tim O'Reagan's harmony vocal with Brandt's lead and makes you eject the CD and check the label to make sure you haven't stumbled across a long-lost Jayhawks album.  It's followed by "Just One More Time (Sunil & Kavita), a catchy power-pop wedding song.  The harmony vocals shine throughout the album.

Other highlights are "1-4-5," a simple guitar and harmonica-driven homage to Iris Dement and the standard country/folk chord progression, which sounds like an instant country/folk classic itself; the Wilcoesque "Obsolesence," which poses questions about living life with meaning; and the title track, a soul-searching lament that hangs on an out-of-tune piano and Szopinski's sympathetic guitar fills.

Brandt's day job as an English and Journalism teacher at a St. Paul, MN high school is evident in the depth of his lyrics, which explore yearning and uncertainty with an underpinning of hope.

This is a warm, satisfying album from a confident artist surrounded by capable collaborators.

Dave Draeger



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