ANDREW BRYANT

Pete Hamill starts his liner notes for Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks this way: “In the end, the plague touched us all.” I’ll start there, too. Goddamn, we’re all beat up. A wreck of a nation. A wreck of a world. A wreck that has been reassembled with screws missing and busted corners and a bad tilt. What remains—what carried me and carries me—is good art. Andrew Bryant’s voice is one I’m consistently thankful for, and I’m more thankful for it than ever in this time of feeling scraped out and ruined. On this new album, A Meaningful Connection, he’s constantly tangling with his wants and needs and fears. He Whitman-wanders through his own wreckage. He’s “looking at the quarrel of the self,” as Hamill said of Dylan. What better way to make sense of things?

“I want to be like Christ, but I don’t want to die,” Bryant sings on “Fight,” the album’s third track. What comes to mind is Nikos Kazantzakis’s very human Jesus from The Last Temptation of Christ, the “deep inscrutable mystery” of “nostalgia for God” that opens both “large wounds and large flowing springs.” A Meaningful Connection is not a religious record, but it traffics in the same sort of spiritual anguish. Bryant is always yearning, searching, battling. Loss of faith doesn’t erase the struggle of duality, the conflict of being.

If the album’s got a thesis, it’s this from “Drink the Pain Away”: “Saying everything is fine when everything feels fucked up is just a lie / I guess I never really learned how to let go of the truth for a lie.” Bryant’s more obsessed than ever with the truth and time. He interrogates his past. What’s real? What’s artifice? What’s home? What’s a meaningful connection mean? How do we kill the loneliness? What happens when something we thought was the truth turns out to be a lie? Standout track “Birmingham” spins these questions into a melancholy chronicle of such seeking. Another standout, “Reality Winner,” finds Bryant saying, “So please ya’ll, don’t @ me, / I’m trying out this vibe. / I don’t have to listen to your truth or your lies.” On “Truth Ain’t Hard to Find,” Bryant tells us that “[the] truth ain’t hard to find / It’s a chorus I keep singing in my mind,” and it feels triumphant as hell.

The plague came. Other plagues were already here. Yet other plagues have been here forever and will never leave. We struggle on. We look for another song to sing. We drink and we stop drinking. We want and we stop wanting. We find peace in big waves and lose it in fires that tear through our houses and our hearts. “I hear it takes a stronger soul to build a stronger mind,” Bryant says. “Like how a verse is just a verse until you sing it twice.” Here are some songs built to carry you. Here are some songs that play like watching a movie at a drive-in while a hard rain falls. Here is a memory made of gravel. Here is a plan written in ink that bleeds. As Barry Hannah wrote, “Ladies and gentleman, it’s all power and light.”

                                                                                                                                 -William Boyle, 2021


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