First Impressions: Tangled by Brinsley Schwarz

“Hey, how are you? I hope you’re doing okay. Isn’t this a crazy world we’re living in?” So asks Brinsley Schwarz in “Crazy World,” a conversational number on Tangled, the veteran guitarist’s second solo album, that is slated for release on September 3rd. As on the other nine tracks, which include a rendition of Graham Parker’s “Love Gets You Twisted,” it’s somewhat akin to listening to an old mate ruminate while downing pints in a pub.

It’s a guaranteed good time, in other words.

Schwarz is someone music aficionados of a certain vintage are well familiar with. For those unaware, his namesake “pub rock” band – which formed from the splinters of Kippington Lodge – included school chum Nick Lowe (who wrote and sang the bulk of the songs), released a slew of albums in the early 1970s and even opened for Paul McCartney & Wings on the ex-Beatle’s 1973 U.K. tour. After they parted ways in 1975, he – along with bandmate Bob Andrews – moved onto the Rumour, which became best known for backing Graham Parker on Parker’s classic ‘70s albums and, at least in this household, Garland Jeffreys on his 1981 Escape Artist tour. In the years since, he’s worked with Parker both in the studio and on the road.

Yet, despite his lengthy career, Schwarz didn’t get around to releasing his first solo album until 2016. That effort, Unexpected, was much like this one – a breezy excursion that felt much like catching up with an old friend. It is also, in part, how Tangled came about. According to the press release, when he and co-producer James Hallawell finished with Unexpected, they essentially kept on keeping on. “Storm in the Hills,” the lead single that was released last November, finds Schwarz surveying the sorry state of the world atop the same beat that Bob Dylan borrowed from Chuck Berry for “Thunder on the Mountain” (aka “Johnny B. Goode”).

The rest of the album essentially mirrors the laid-back groove you just heard. Echoes of other songs, other artists, are audible throughout, but that’s okay – that’s rock ’n’ roll in a nutshell, if you think about it. In many ways, the album reminds me of such latter-day Neil Young albums as Colorado. He’s not out to upend the order of things, primarily because he has nothing left to prove – he is who he is, if that makes sense. Tangled definitely won’t change the world, yet is an easy album to like.

He plays the bulk of the instruments, l should mention, and lays down some true sonic bliss (aka guitar solos) on more songs than not, including the wryly humorous “You Drive Me to Drink” and heartfelt “Stranded.” To my ears, however, the standout track is the aforementioned “Crazy World,” in which he extends a hand to a friend going through a tough time. The closing “All Day,” which starts on ukulele before switching to a full band, closes the 10-song set on an up note. It’s a good album. Give it a go; you’ll be glad you did.

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