Bryan Duncan is back on Conversations, as good a project as any he's ever done. No rust here, just great music....
Red Road Records
Conversations is a total treat from the first notes of the bouncy, percussive "Sweet Friend of Mine," which starts the album, to the last notes of "God Wins," the stunning R &B tour de force at the end. Fans of Bryan Duncan – whether from his solo career or from his days with the iconic Sweet Comfort Band – will be happy to find that Bryan's song writing and vocal talents are in fine form, showing no signs of rust, and that Conversations is as good a Bryan Duncan project as any he's ever done.
Truly an independent project, Conversations was produced without the backing of a major label – the plus side of this is that Duncan was free to create the album that he truly wanted to make. The result is an album wonderfully-produced, featuring energetic, top-notch performances all around. With notable guests including Phil Keaggy and Bob Carlisle, Duncan's cohorts through most of the album were: Tony Hooper, who arranged, played keyboards and guitar (holding his own alongside the mighty Phil Keaggy), Michael Vaughn, who played bubbling, melodic, and funky bass on most tracks, and Jason Palmer and Frank Cotinola, who each provided powerful, jazzy, elegant and generally tasty drumming. Playing smooth, jazzy horn parts on the album (most impressively on "You Made Me Love You") is Philip Lasitter.
One of the things that Conversations makes obvious is that Bryan Duncan certainly has established a signature sound and has songwriting chops to spare. Writing and/or co-writing all of the songs on the album, Duncan's particular sense of melody permeates like the presence of an old friend. His ability to write singable, catchy melodies with strong hooks makes each track on Conversations a potential fan favorite. Word-play and Bryan's particular sense of humor are also intact in song titles like "Got Ya' Where You Want Me," and lyrics such as, " Up all night, tried to write, everything about love I understand – but there's no words for this song." Vulnerability and self-effacing humor have always been part of Duncan's repertoire and there's no lack of either here.
Of course, the songs have strong melody and great playing throughout. There's funk and R & B to spare, with strong pop elements, and hooks abound. The ballads are all strong without being over-the-top or sappy. Bryan's sound is a combination of soulful pop and sophisticated jazz elements, occasionally getting into a Steely Dan vibe (dig the guitar and piano work by Hooper on "Got Ya' Where You Want Me"). The refreshing "Lovin' You" is a cool, sweet little jazz/swing tune providing a break from the funk – similar to the function of "Caribbean Dream" on Duncan's The Last Time I Was Here project - with an accordion solo from Buddy Connolly that automatically brings a smile to the face.
This is a fine collection of tracks, especially for long time aficionados of Contemporary Christian Music, but really for anyone that can appreciate a well-written and well-performed song. Without becoming maudlin or self-obsessed, the song lyrics are from a refreshingly transparent and vulnerable place that anyone can relate to; pop, funk, light jazz, and blue-eyed soul are equally represented; the production is first-rate; and, yes – the tunes will stay with you. Conversations is a great album for anyone except people who don't like Bryan's voice (and his voice is one of the great voices out there, so what's up with that?), or those who will only listen to self-absorbed indie shoe-gazers and grind-core.
Apparently, a Sweet Comfort Band Project is in the works. Can Bob Carlisle be far behind? If Conversations is any indication, this could be the start of some interesting things indeed.
The album is currently available at www.sogoodforthesoul.com with wider availability coming soon.