Nell Bryden - Shake the Tree
Brooklyn native Nell Bryden returns with a second album of country-tinged, MOR singer-songwriter fare which shows some elan and polish. Bryden’s breathy, sometimes world weary vocals fit well within these mid tempo collection of songs and tracks like 'Buildings & Treetops' and 'Sirens', with their tales of love within building choruses wouldn’t feel out of place on the soundtrack to a romantic comedy. Whilst this might feel like damning with faint praise it demonstrates a level of quality on offer here. Elsewhere, a gentle country-lite tinge frames some of the tracks. This isn’t an album of melancholia though. On 'Even When a Heart Breaks' her focus is on the positive with the rejoinder that “the cracks let the light shine through”.
It’s descriptive to say that this is an album you could imagine Radio 2 getting behind. In fact, Bryden’s first album What Does It Take had six tracks playlisted by the station. Whether this UK based interest is behind her recording this album over here remains an open question. The key here is whether this has been a deliberate attempt to repeat the success of her previous album or a more organic approach to see where her music would take her. The evidence, of a slightly cold, cliched, if highly polished album suggests perhaps that we are dealing with more calculated measure.
Yet this album isn’t a throwaway gesture on Bryden’s part. There’s a sense of commitment to these songs, their composition and delivery throughout. For some listeners, the MOR framings might not be enough. For others, there’s a range of songs here that they may find reward through repeated listening.