Paul Brett 2009
Calm, quiet and innocent: an old-time manual on pastoral existence brought to life by British guitarist.
Since 1653, when it was first published, “The Compleat Angler” has been out of print only once – only the Bible and Shakespeare’s oeuvre beat this book’s record of longevity-in-demand – yet most people didn’t hear about Izaak Walton’s alluring mélange of prose, poetry and philosophical dialogues. Paul Brett, a connoisseur of all things baroque, did. Not for nothing one of the veteran’s signature guitars is called “Viator” – after one of the fictitious fishers who populate the tractate’s pages that the English author filled, with a little help of his friends, with romantic lines which go beyond piscatorial wisdom. Enchanted, Paul found tune where others would smell tuna, and turned those verses into songs – wrapped in strum and augmented with strings and woodwind to convey the era’s aural aroma in the most perfect way – and link it to “3D Mona Liza” and other Brett classics.
His high, inspired vocals set serenity in the album’s heart from “O, The Gallant Fisher’s Life” onward to take the essentially chamber performance out in the open and let its melody ripple and flutter – triumphantly, if playfully – while the folk motif of “The Salmon Leap” is drenched in sad solemnly, and “Corridon’s Song” is firmly rooted in tradition. There’s something vaudevillian to “Spring” yet these sincere songs are stripped of superficial histrionics, the instrumental “Study To Be Quiet” distilling Paul’s exquisite method quite picturesquely, whereas “Virtue” infuses the flow with drama.
The transparent hymn “In Praise Of A Beggar’s Life” might be the pinnacle of this majestic record, where Brett’s extolling simple pleasures, but its title track introduces blues worry to beatific dance, slyly sprinkling contemporary stardust over ancient stanzas. With dozen pieces comprising a 20-minute album, natural wonders fill every sound on this timeless piece of work. Sadly, most people didn’t hear those sounds.