Written by James Killen
Charles Bryant started late in life as a professional musician, but has been playing and writing for years. As a Pasadena resident, Charles made many appearances at Almost Austin over the past few years and has been known to play a few evenings at the Last Concert Café. Prior to that he honed his craft playing for the residents at nursing homes, which is always a welcome treat for those folks.
He has just put out a new CD called “Kiss the Sun” and it deserves some close attention as a creative work that evokes many emotions, makes social statements and even brings the listener a chuckle or two on a few of the cuts.
The first cut, “21 Days” starts out with some delicate finger picking that quickly transitions to an aggressive strumming style that will remind older listeners of Richie Havens. The tone is dark and speaks of living with depression, much like an Eric Taylor or Townes Van Zandt tune. The whole song is accented by an electric lead that draws the listener along with the song.
“Evan’s Song” is one of the most effective tear jerking songs that I have ever heard. It’s a prayer from an eleven year old orphan boy that lost his mother as an infant and his father to suicide recently. There is a combination of delicate finger picking and strumming set over an orchestral background that builds to a crescendo as the young man asks his mother and father what heaven is like. I’d be surprised if we didn’t hear this one covered by someone more well known in the near future.
Charles laments the lack of love in our society as he speaks about young people suffering from PTSD and drug addiction while congressmen decry immigration in “It’s About Love”. The song starts out with more Havens style strumming to which is added a lively organ fill. It’s carried to climax by a funky electric guitar lead.
“The Nursing Home” is a finger picking tear jerker about a nursing home resident that has nothing to look forward to but slipping into death.
The tone lightens up considerably with “The MRI Song”, a tongue-in-cheek country gospel ditty about a claustrophobic undergoing a twenty minute MRI test. “Give You” starts out with gentle finger picking behind a haunting electric jazz lead that picks up the pace to a rapid acoustic strumming and delivers the message, “When you have nothing left to give, give you.” Returning to the lighter side Bryant delivers another tongue-in-cheek finger picking song called “What I Need Today” about nicotine and caffeine addiction.
What I perceive to be the centerpiece of the album is “Just Kill ‘Em All (A Love Song). It starts out with peaceful nature sounds, crashing surf and a Japanese folk song suddenly squelched by an atomic explosion, followed by a recording of Harry Truman announcing the bombing of Hiroshima. The song lampoons the callous shouts of those that would so quickly resort to ultimate destruction without consideration of loss of human life. It’s a real rocker with acoustic strumming, aggressive slide guitar and some frantic electric guitar noodling.
The record returns to the gentle side with “The Only One”, a finger picking tune artfully accompanied by orchestration that declares dedication to his one and only love. The title track entreats the listener to live life to its fullest while there is still time to the music of acoustic guitar and piano.
“The Grim Reaper” starts out with a Southern European style melody of violins, accordion, and mandolin. A harmonica riff introduces the lyrical part of the song about the ever present reality of eventual death driven by aggressive organ playing.
Bryant concludes his disc with another prayerful song thanking God for all of the good things in his life, but asking that he not have to relive life’s pains on “Never Again”.
You shouldn’t pass up a chance to see this talented but humble artist as he plays around town. His live shows are full of energy and empathy. When you see him, pass by the merch booth and pick up this disc. It will live in your CD player for days.