Record Review: Conjuring Big and The Beatles, Brett Harris Delivers the Excellent New Up in the Air | Record Review | Indy Week
Pin It

Record Review: Conjuring Big and The Beatles, Brett Harris Delivers the Excellent New Up in the Air 


Even on a stage packed with the pros, legends, and indie rock heroes gathered to perform Big Star's Third, Brett Harris often elicited the "Who's that guy?" response from audiences and critics alike. Harris just seemed to know how to bring out the ache in Alex Chilton's cracked gems.

The vocal skills of the thirty-two-year-old Durham singer-songwriter have become so appreciated that he sidetracked his own music in order to take part in various impossible-to-deny collaborations. Up in the Air, released this week, is his first long-player in six years. It is well worth the wait. Up in the Air makes a compelling case for Harris as an undeniable singer and a songwriter.

Harris's 2010 solo debut, Man of Few Words, mixed sophisticated pop in the Bacharach vein with folk and Americana. Some of the adult contemporary sensibility remains here, but Harris's palette has shifted toward a musical vocabulary established by Big Star and the Beach Boys, alongside his beloved Beatles.

Over ten songs, Up in the Air resists settling into any one mood or idiom. The intricate "End of the Rope," anchored by a guitar figure that feels plucked from a lost British Invasion hit, gallops like a kid who's just gotten his first kiss. It's an instant grabber that pulls you toward the unexpected. "Out of the Blue," a paean to love, sports a sumptuous melody worthy of Harry Nilsson or even ELO. Motown strings sweeten the bar-band blues of "Summer Night," while "Spanish Moss" begins in a glade before church-pure harmonies enter. "Steal away with me tonight," Harris entreats.

In covering such vast stylistic ground, Harris shows a willingness to submerge the grain of his voice in service of the song. Still, tunes that feature his voice up front—like the languid Muscle Shoals gospel-soul of "High Times" or the charming title track—offer the greatest evidence of his distinctiveness.

Occasionally the rhyme schemes are predictable, and by the penultimate "Shade Tree," despite its charms, you may detect one Beatle-esque descending progression too many. These are minor quibbles on an album with manifold standouts. This is a dreamily good record that you want to play all the way through, perhaps even again immediately. That's perfect, really, since it's historically taken Harris a while to get around to the next one.

Brett Harris appears Friday, March 4 at Cat's Cradle Back Room in Carrboro. Tickets are $8-$10, the show starts at 8 p.m.

This article appears in print with the headline "Sooner and Later."


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Record Review

Twitter Activity

Most Recent Comments

Love it! All the songs are beautiful!

by Jon Champion on Record Review: The Return of The Veldt, The Shocking Fuzz of Your Electric Fur: The Drake Equation, Is Great (Record Review)

This release will be available Friday December 4th here:

Thanks! …

by Scott Phillips on Review: The electronic excellence of GNØER's Tethers Down (Record Review)

You should have let Currin write this. One of the best singers on earth and these were your observations? sounds …

by Remo on Record review: Jeanne Jolly's A Place to Run (Record Review)


Most Read

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation