Besides Daniel’s “This Marvelous Grief”

TBI’s Cameron Barham calls Besides Daniel’s “This Marvelous Grief” his “most ambitious work to date.”

Cameron Barham

out of 10

Besides Daniel
This Marvelous Grief
March 13, 2013

“Consider how much more you often suffer from your anger and grief, Than from those very things for which you are angry and grieved.”

-W. B. Yeats

Meaningful art is often born of wrestling deeply with issues of great gravity only to limp to the conclusion that it was all necessary to arrive at the current vista of a scarred but smarter understanding. This is definitively true of Besides Daniel’s This Marvelous Grief, a 14 song Odyssey through the broken fragments of relationship to self, others, family, and God. The beauty of this journey is that it doesn’t wallow in the clichés of hopelessness and despair choosing instead to poetically arrive in the freedom of forgiveness.

Besides Daniel is the musical vehicle of Daniel Brewer, an Atlanta resident, who recruited the various talents and creativities of an array of musicians, his fans through a successful Kick Starter campaign, and the superb production work of Steven Lee Tracey at Glow in the Dark Studios on his most ambitious work to date. Most notable is the backing vocal of Molly Parden as a tangible example of the emotional distance come for Brewer. This Marvelous Grief will draw comparisons to Lord Huron, Bon Iver, Iron and Wine, and Conner Oberst, just to name a few, which, by the way, is excellent company in which to be mentioned. This album deserves such comparisons and should serve as the means by which Besides Daniel garners a similar hearing and audience.

The album begins with “This Marvelous Grief,” a gently muted piano instrumental prelude to the urgent messages that are to follow. “Untouched and Burning” launches the journey with a driving rhythm and the prayer: “We run from want and we want to live, hiding from beauty inside ourselves, but there is a secret inside our chests, untouched and burning, you have put this here, so that we reach for you, But we don’t know how to speak your name, help us to love ourselves”. This gives way to “10,000 Angels,” the saloon-tinged ode to the contradictions of life that ultimately don’t have the power to choke out the beauty of this world. “In a Heartbeat,” my personal favorite, displays Brewer singing in hushed tones reminiscent of the best of Sam Beam as he beautifully harmonizes: “If you were to ask me to, You know I would, In a heartbeat, in a heartbeat.” There are a number of layers to this song that are laid so gently one upon another with tremendous restraint as the song rises to its perfect close. The album reaches its midpoint with folk-genre defying “1979,” another perfectly crafted track, and “Grand Canyon” which recalls the blended stylings of G. Love and Special Sauce.

The urgency returns with the marching “Penny Queen” which displays Brewer at his poetic best as he muses: “We’re stretched between, a penny and a queen, a future and a dream, yeah you are a lover and a thief, I am my pleasure and my grief, and when will it end?”. The urgency lulls with “Babylon,” “Set Sail,” and “Our Life is Like a Party,” which processes the wounds of a past relationship with an almost disembodied fidelity that makes the force of the words no less powerful. “A New Language” finds Brewer confessing over perfectly crafted music and a gracefully embracing harmony: “And I’ll let all these tears change, into lessons learned, I’ll stop hiding monsters up under my bed, Babe, I’ve been so destructive, with these words that I’ve said, so I’ll learn a new language, and I’ll sing a new song, something so happy we forget all that’s wrong.” The album closes with “The Center Georgia,” “Unanswered Questions,” and “20 Winters,” a lament/dirge in the Irish folk tradition that brings This Marvelous Grief to a satisfying conclusion.

This Marvelous Grief covers a wealth of emotional ground in a variety of creative ways displaying Brewer’s gift for crafting engaging songs of significant depth. While you may not be able to make the whole journey in one sitting, it is a work of art worth returning to again and again.

-Cameron Barham, March 25, 2013