Brandon Isaak’s new release, Modern Primitive, is a highly listenable, highly air-playable album of gems.  The ultra talented songwriter and musician has outdone himself with 11 songs that are honest, genuine and distinctly different from one another.

The album is well titled, for this truly is a contemporary take on songs that have a sound reminiscent of the past, particularly the 1920-30s.  This is enhanced by the location of the recording, captured live in one session at the penthouse suite of the Georgia Hotel in Vancouver.   Reputed to be haunted, the suite was occupied by such greats as Sinatra, Nat, Bing and Elvis, and was also home to CKWX radio in the 1930s.

Aside from Isaak’s impressive writing talents, he also lays down the guitar, lap steel, banjo, harmonica, and drum tracks, along with some mighty fine vocals. Joining  him is his long time musical partner, upright bassist, Keith Picot, who lends his solid, masterful sound to the bottom end. Somehow the two of them sound like a full ensemble, their blended sound tight, honed and hand in glove.

The songs are short and to the point, with the odd solo adding sparkle but not missed in tracks sans solos.  Clean, honest and deeply musical, each track satisfies, with different tempos and feels holding the listener’s attention. 

“Lost Love and Loose Women” features a lazy, relaxed groove, sitting in the pocket just behind the beat, Isaak’s brushes gently moving the time. Piano and guitar lay down the rhythm while the lap steel sings.  “Valentine’s Blues” swings hard, with the vocal copying the terrific guitar solo lines for a few bars on this melancholy but not sad track.  It would be so easy to imitate vocally, but there’s no affectation anywhere on this album, just true blue, understated beauty.  

“Six Little Letters” shines with a bright tempo shuffle, a catchy melody and guitar solo creating an earworm and the six little letters, L O V E  Y O U, bringing a smile.  “Walk That Road Alone”, a rolling, Gospel take, features one of the few vocal harmonies and a sublime lap slide solo and the reminder, “you gonna reap what you sow.”

This is an album you’ll want on your car stereo, playing in the background while entertaining dinner guests, while sitting on your sofa sipping a beverage, or on the stereo on Sunday morning to greet the day… in other words, any time, all the time.  Recommended. (Cindy McLeod)