If we had more interest in talent than Q Ratings, maybe we wouldn't be stuck with shiny, empty baubles like Britney Spears. If there were as much preoccupation with stories as plot twists, we could do a lot better than American Idol: In such a world, we'd know more about Brett Harris than Clay Aiken (if anyone even remembers back that far), and it'd be because he writes fine classic pop and plays all the instruments and not because he's got a funny haircut or an effete manner.
The Durham resident's six-song debut EP, Yesterday's News, is wonderfully crafted, crisply delivered and well produced. Like the "Blackbird"-biting, finger-picked folk of "Cream with Coffee," there's a strong whiff of McCartney on the title track. It boasts a little piano swing and a buoyant irrepressible way as Harris begs his lover to hold on, arguing "When you've come this far, don't you know it's a long way down?" The aching, country-rock ballad "Tennessee Line" features splendid female harmonies and nice playing that almost allow it to transcend its dusty "outlaw love" cliché (not altogether unlike Whiskeytown, from whom the EP's title is borrowed). But the real highlight is the album-closing "I'm in Love," whose lighthearted jangle accompanied by Harris' sweet, unaffected tenor croon suggests Rhett Miller's solo material. Really, the only thing Harris' music lacks compared to what's on your FM dial is listeners.
Brett Harris plays Broad Street Café Friday, March 28, with Dylan Gilbert, Dry Heathens and The Manics at 9 p.m. Tickets are $5.