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Pennan Brae hits “Pay Dirt”

Rock has struggled to maintain a contemporary FM presence in the last ten years, but this has little to do with the efforts of Pennan Brae, whose clandestine approach to robust rock n’ roll rhythms is available in its tightest form yet in the new single “Pay Dirt.” Brae uses a big garage groove to make a statement about his creative interests moving forward in “Pay Dirt,” and you don’t have to be a longtime supporter to appreciate the show of strength that the entire song feels like by the time it crosses the finish line.


There’s no fat on the strings here; in fact, they’re actually pretty sleek and venomous in comparison to likeminded heavy music currently out this season. The first time that I listened to “Pay Dirt,” I was inclined to think of Eagles of Death Metal, but the comparison went away upon further inspection of the track’s bluesy construction. There’s too much of simplicity in the thrust of the riffing here for the music to be classified as straight-up retro rock; the sound of the Delta can be found in this song if you listen closely enough, and the same can be said for a lot of Brae’s discography in general.

The beat in “Pay Dirt” assaults us quietly and unsuspectingly, defining a heart-racing groove while staying out of the melody’s way. A lot of other players would have probably gone with a multilayered approach to the mix instead of the flowing, collision-friendly style that Pennan Brae utilizes for this track, but I appreciate his going the route that he ultimately did. By pushing all of the instrumentation into a single wall of sound here, we feel every sonic inch of passion that the harmonies can impart to us, which is always preferable to mathy over-complexities in my book.

This lead vocal is rather understated, and I think this is a big reason why “Pay Dirt” feels as edgy and mischievous as it does even after multiple listening sessions. Brae can’t come out and scream what he has to say here – he’s telling us a dirty secret dressed in a growingly guitar-driven groove, and it’s up to us to turn the volume dial up as high as we can in hopes of (properly) hearing it. I like the setup, but more specifically, the cool persona that it lends both the music and the man performing it for us.

If this is on par with what Pennan Brae is going to be cutting throughout the next chapter in his career, I will be eagerly awaiting future dispatches bearing his moniker in the byline. Brae is divvying out the bad boy beats here as though they haven’t yet gone out of style, and in doing so, he reminds us that they never completely did in the first place – mainstream sources simply stopped emitting the content. He’s picking up where his influences left off and, I must say, sounding more than adept at navigating the road he’s chosen to go down as a professional artist.

Mindy McCall



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