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CD Review: Brett Dennen's Hope for the Hopeless

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There’s a spectrum of the singer songwriter: semi-hotties who produce pure pabulum (John Mayer, Jack Johnson) to artists with great lyrics that we’d much rather listen to than moon over (think Bob Dylan and Van Morrison). And then there’s everyone else.

Brett Dennen falls somewhere in the middle. The red-headed, ultra-tall Bay Area-based musician started playing the California coffee house circuit five years ago and released his latest CD Hope for the Hopeless last month.

With this new foray, he’s leaving the solitary troubadour feel of his breakthrough release So Much More and has incorporated a lot more pop and world music touches into his tunes. Maybe that’s the influence of producer John Alagia (John Mayer, Dave Matthews Band), but it leaves us with an album that’s reminiscent of the lite rock of the ’70s—which is all fine and good if you’re into the Gordon Lightfoot/America sound.

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Dennen's voice is as distinctive as other singer-songwriters like Martin Sexton, Ron Sexsmith, and the earnestness of his intentions comes through on the record, but the music seems restrained on this effort. The opening track "San Francisco" is an easy-listening, Joni Mitchell-esque breakup song and an homage to the city and its neighborhoods. Afro-beat god Femi Kuti is on the CD's second track and first single "Make You Crazy," It's catchy, but if you've ever seen Kuti's frenetic power and energy onstage, you know that this song does him no justice.

All things considered Hope for the Hopeless isn't a bad CD, it's just a little on the lite side for our taste.

Make You Crazy feat. Femi Kuti - Brett Dennen