[THE OL’ SLOW ’N’ SAD] Barry Brusseau is a man with many gifts: a clear, low-register voice that reminds of Smog’s Bill Callahan; dexterous hands that convey soul and patience in his guitar playing; a knack for minimal arrangements. Those gifts help craft songs like “Thrift Store Buzz” and “Fall to the Wayside” into rich, slightly melodramatic vignettes worthy of the Magnetic Fields or the Red House Painters.
Brusseau sounds like he’s been writing songs for a long time. And he has—except that his first solo record, A Night Goes Through, is quite a stylistic change-up from the material played by his last two bands, Portland hard-rock outfit the Legend of Dutch Savage and Longview, Wash., punk band the Jimmies.
It’s only because Brusseau’s aforementioned musical gifts are so pronounced that his lyricism fails him on occasion: The willfully sparse verbiage on “Coffee Table Song” only underscores that the rhymes themselves leave something to be desired, and the next tune, “The Promise” (which, with a cello mocking vocal harmonies, is one of the most musically striking numbers on A Night Goes Through), is emotionally affecting, but its words seem twisted awkwardly at times to fit the tune.
But more often than not, Brusseau’s words do the trick. Whether he’s crooning sleepily about angels on “Stars All Over Their Wings” or getting meta on the verses of closer “A Night Goes Through,” Brusseau has clearly been saving lyrical material that fits well enough into gorgeous recordings (one can almost tell without looking that Adam Selzer and his Type Foundry Studio are responsible for most of the album). But if Brusseau refines his lyricism enough that the words stand up even without his fine accompaniment, he’ll be one hell of a singer-songwriter.
SEE IT: Barry Brusseau plays The Woods on Thursday, Jan. 20, with Jarad Miles in Birdcloud (also releasing a new record). 9 pm. $6. 21+.