Strings click into place and gallop towards us at full speed in the opening bars of “Old Brown Case,” the new single by none other than roots guitarist Gary Brewer, but their fervent assault is softened by a glistening melody born of smoldering tempo and wistful, free-spirited melodicism. They swing back and forth with a pendulousness that is aggressive but easy for us to synchronize our hips with, and before we know it Brewer is digging even deeper into our souls with an emotive play that doesn’t leave any room for linguistic expression in the grander scheme of things. He doesn’t flinch, even when the rhythm of the song is burning with as much passion as his passion is, and for the next few minutes, he and his audience are sharing in what feels like quite the sacred experience.
“Old Brown Case” sees Brewer utilizing every inch of sonic space that the composition affords him; he fills even the smallest of gaps with immense textures and colorful play that ties together all of the eccentricities within the composition. This song is by far one of his most dexterously arranged, pitting the rhythm against the lead for an all-out battle of the titans. In the end, it’s us, the listeners, who benefit the most from all of their clashing and the aesthetical contrasts that are rendered as a result; instead of boring us with another predictably bucolic country ballad, Brewer pulls out all the stops and legitimately produce something provocative and cut from a more progressive cloth in comparison to most of the roots music fodder in 2023.
If you listen to his music, and especially his new album and its star lead single here, you know it can be said that Gary Brewer’s prowess around a recording studio is certainly something to marvel at, which he demonstrates swaggeringly in this single for both critics and fans the same. There’s never a moment where we feel like we’re listening to something forced or steeped in a commercial interest skulking about just beneath the surface of the instrumental song’s narrative; there’s just Brewer, his simple message and the complexities of his intricately designed sound, which puts a lot more stock in his God-given string tonality than it does any other component within the song.
Fans of roots music old and young would do well to check out “Old Brown Case” if they haven’t already, along with the rest of Gary Brewer’s growing discography of straight-up instrumental jams. I think that overall this song makes for an excellent jumping-off point for anyone curious about Brewer’s work or the style of play that he’s so brilliantly made his own. Time will be the ultimate judge, but from where I sit, I think that it’s just as possible that he’ll be remembered for his contributions to music as much as he is for anything he composes behind the scenes, and that’s no small statement to make by any stretch of your imagination. This plays like a signature, and it’s one I could get used to for sure.
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