Review by Joseph Timmons: IndiePulse Music Magazine
Brad Heller’s album, The Sentence, is evidence of his evolution as a socially-involved, profound song-smith. From the jangling electric guitar riff that leads off the new record, to the marching drumbeat that fades out the final song, Heller’s labor of love is his most focused work both musically and lyrically while employing a stripped-down, yet full-bodied sound steeped in social commentary and self-reflection. The follow-up to his breakthrough album, American Burden, The Sentence (Heller’s fifth full-length album) fires on all cylinders from start to finish.
In Review: The Sentence is a rather ominous title, thinking of the phrase of 2 words, sounds as if it were a punishment, as a “Sentence” could be inferred.. but in this case, I would think it is more of a reprieve as time served, a look back at a life and at a future. Brad Heller takes opportunity to relate to us in a singer / songwriter style, whether in the warmth of the acoustic strings or the sharp tongue edge of the electric axe to let us know exactly what he means. In a emotionally uplifting collection of work, Brad brings us into his world.
The opening track, “Eternal Season,” brad comes to terms with his life’s choices and travels, taking a narrative lead, and as we all live this “American Dream” which for some has become somewhat of a nightmare, he finds himself “Stranded” in a place, in a time, in a fairytale possibly gone wrong.
In “Thousand Days”, Brad takes a bit of a back step, sounding like the radio songs of days gone by, the lonely soul sound that echoes off the dashboard in a car alone on a long, long road. This track, is followed by the title track, The Sentence, again, the song could have many meanings, and I say this not due to a loss of words to describe, but like with every listener, every set of ears, this song could mean many things and a good life to some is a nightmare to others, we can only take the good with the bad and make it through the night, with hopes for a better tomorrow.
In Brad’s song “Gone”, we find the narrator, once again dealing with possible emotional turmoil, love lost, or just dealing with any kind of loss that takes you down, best way is to just keep on keeping on, to get back up and move to the next set of hurdles.
The album then takes a turn, building up to a ballad style, in the track that sound like it was the result of channeling the boss himself, The Runner is a romantic tale of regrets. In The Greatest Crime the tempo picks up and there is a jump shuffle in his lyrical step, the song is both lively and simple in it’s message “what I did, to erase time, I’m a victim, of the greatest crime, bound by chains, you left behind” a bit of a haunting phrase, but it could also be one who has to clean up a mess left by another, one who just did not care.
The album The Sentence by Brad Heller is like this, track after track, a series of narratives and life’s lessons that we can all connect to, an for those that think life is hard, and is like a sentence to be endured, those are the people imprisoned by their lives and fears, but, I think that if Brad has seen things like this, it is from his embracing his life, his loves, his loss and his joys, taking it all in, and continuing to breath, that is what gives him the power to make strings sing and his soul flight.
Brad Heller has established himself as a credible force among current songwriters. Honing his craft for over a decade and a half, the Wilmington, North Carolina, transplant has built a reputation as a thoughtful song-smith who tackles a wide range of personal and social issues. Bouncing between a myriad of genres, Heller finds creative drive in honoring musical influences that inspired him, while never abandoning his own unique sound.
Heller continues to build his audience with constant touring and spirited live shows. Heller’s latest effort centers on middle-class characters while exploring themes of loss, self-imposed alienation, abandonment of faith, addiction, and immigration. Voted Wilmington’s “Best Original Rock Band,” Brad Heller and the Fustics will be hitting the road in full force in the new year and beyond.
“The sound of Heller and company is hard to pin down…A natural storyteller…complete with mellow acoustic rhythms and cutting electric riffs…likens his songwriting to that of Kentucky’s Chris Knight.” Charleston City Paper
“They make honest- to-goodness rock and roll…at times sounding like The Jayhawks or even bigger bands like The Wallflowers…dramatic in the same way Van Morrison or Led Zeppelin can be in their quietest moment.” Southeast Performer
“Taking the legacy of Redheaded Stranger, Nebraska, Blood on the Tracks, and Son Volt’s Trace in their own hands and hearts.” – Grayson Currin, Independent Weekly
Donate to IndiePulse Music Magazine’s Academic and Music Education Scholarship Program HeartBeat4Kids
IndiePulse Music Magazine creates Scholarships to help Youth In Need of assistance to complete their educational goals and stay in school.