MIKE BROOKFIELD – Brookfield (Golden Rule Records GRCD003)

BrookfieldMike Brookfield has followed up his debut album Love Breaks The Fall with a blues-soaked CD simply and eponymously titled Brookfield, due for release on September 22nd. Mike’s own web site describes the CD as “11 tracks of burnin’ blues rock“, which is not a bad description: he clearly knows one end of a Strat (or Les Paul!) from the other (and evidently is not a bad bass player, either). This self-produced album features Mike on all guitars and vocals, and Andrew Lavery on drums and percussion. Mike wrote all the music, while journalist and Horslips drummer/lyricist Eamon Carr supplied the words. In fact, the lyrics are very good indeed.

  1. ‘A Message For Willy Johnson’ is, you may not be surprised to know, mostly about Blind Willy Johnson, and includes allusions in the playout to ‘Keep your lamp trimmed and burning’, a gospel/blues tune much associated with Johnson, “the blind man who spread the light.” However, don’t expect a country blues homage: it’s very much a blues/rock track which Mike describes as having elements of Clapton. I guess I can hear that both in the lead and in the changes. In any case it’s a good song, well played.
  2. The title of ‘Beaten To Death By The Blues’ may make you think momentarily of Leonard Cohen, but this is far removed from ‘Take This Waltz’. It’s an up-tempo tribute to rock and roll casualties. Excellent lead guitar, backed up by tasteful slide.
  3. With its Hendrix-y wah-wah and double-tracked lead, there’s an early 70s feel to ‘Zombie Craze’ – not a criticism in my book, though.
  4. ‘Suitcase Blues’ takes the tempo down for a sad story song around more 70s-y riffing. While I don’t hear any acoustic guitar on this album, there is some tasteful arpeggiated chording here and elsewhere that provides some breathing space between the harder rock arrangements.
  5. ‘Don’t Close The Gates’ has an optimistic lyric set to a blues-y tune. Nice slide, not flashy but entirely appropriate as a counterweight to the heavy-duty lead break.
  6. By contrast, the pessimistic ‘Living In A Better World’ begins with some slow, atmospheric guitar augmented by some stomp box manipulation, moving into a rockier, wah-wah driven verse.
  7. Mike’s setting of Eamon’s words on ‘Letter From The Devil’ seems to have synthesized influences from Son House (‘Death Letter Blues’) to Doyle Bramhall II and his 90s work with Arc Angels with a vocal that reminded me slightly of Paul Rodgers. The result is very listenable.
  8. ‘Hi Class Shoes’ has a structure that reminded me slightly of Willie Dixon (and nothing wrong with that…): it has a typically rock theme of looking out for ladies with high class shoes. It reminded me a little of a heavier version of John Mayall’s ‘Cancelling Out’.
  9. ‘Gun Crime’ is another story song with a lot of pace and wah-wah.
  10. ‘This Restless Heart’, unusually for this CD, has double-tracked vocals, and works well.
  11. ‘Written In Chains’ begins with some ear-catching guitar harmonics and an underlying message building to a satisfyingly heavy guitar playout. An entirely suitable ending to the album.

Mike Brookfield is a man who wears his influences on his sleeve (and his fretboard), as you: there are elements here that may remind you of Doyle Bramhall II, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimi Hendrix, and Eric Clapton, though he clearly knows his way round previous generations of blues players. It doesn’t hurt that he’s also a very competent singer: maybe not as instantly recognizable as a Clapton or Plant (not many people are), but he carries a rock vocal well.

The CD gets a live launch a few days at Whelans in Dublin on Tuesday 26th September. I’m sorry I’m not going to be able to get to that: I suspect that yer man will be kicking some serious butt onstage… As a CD, this isn’t groundbreaking, but it riffs very competently on a timeless idiom: if you like blues-y rock, you’ll certainly find much to enjoy here.

David Harley

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Artist’s website: www.mikebrookfield.com

Mike Brookfield’s introduction his new album: