Out of the blue came an email from Derek Senn with a link to his new album. Derek is a singer-songwriter from California of whom I had not heard. My usual response would be to listen to couple of tracks and decide how to proceed – I listened to How Could A Man all the way through and then emailed Derek back to tell him I thought he was weird. Rightly, he took it as a compliment, but as a description it probably doesn’t him justice.
How Could A Man is Derek’s third album made with a tight band of keyboards, drums, electric guitar and/or bass and a set of terrific songs. Derek writes about his life; not just as a musician but also as a husband and father. He writes sometimes about mundane everyday life in suburban San Luis Obispo but there is always a twist and if you listen carefully you’ll realise he’s writing about so much more.
The opening track, ‘Alaska’ begins with the line “I had a great day of surfing” which he immediately qualifies by explaining that he was surfing in an office cubicle. I was hooked. His bio doesn’t say that he lived in Alaska but the rest of the album seems to be true, albeit with some poetic licence, so he probably did. The band has a real retro sound: the keys are Wurlitzer, B3, moog and juno with the electric guitar having a hint of Duane Eddy about it.
The title track is about Derek’s wife, Melanie, who sounds like an amazing lady, but it’s also about their travels and youthful dreams and their story continues in ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’, another delightfully twisted song. In between them is ‘Botox’ which definitely is weird. ‘The Nuclear Family’ is horribly true of modern living: “let’s spend the nights together in our own virtual way” sums it up perfectly and ‘Babysitter’ delves rather too deeply into the messiness of small children. I could talk about every song but I have to leave you something to discover for yourselves. However, I must mention ‘The Oil Oligopoly’ addresses the contradictions of driving to the gym and then on to a protest about fossil fuels.
How Could A Man is available digitally via Bandcamp or as a physical copy direct from Derek’s website: It’s a long way from California but it’s well worth the wait.
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‘The Nuclear Family’: