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Mike BrookfieldMike Brookfield
Album: Brookfield
Label: Golden Rule
Tracks: 11

'Brookfield' is the new album from acclaimed Dublin based, blues guitarist Mike Brookfield who garnered great reviews a couple of years ago with his first release 'Love Breaks The Fall'.

Mike's website tells us the inspiration for this album was a chance meeting with Eamon Carr, drummer and lyricist with Celtic rock legends 'Horslips'. Apparently already an admirer of Mike's playing, Eamon need little prompting to go back over his stash of words, notes and stories from his 70's Beat poet days and came up with a complete set of un-published lyrics that "echoed the birth-cry of the blues-alienation, desolation and psychic transfiguration". In turn, "For Brookfield's amped-up muse, it was like throwing petrol on an open fire" and the eleven songs that make up this album tumbled out.

On 'Brookfield', Mike is credited with all guitars and vocals and Andrew Lavery, drums and percussion. No other musicians are mentioned and there are some strong bass lines here, so I am assuming Mike played bass as well for the recording sessions. As noted above, all lyrics are by Eamon Carr and music, Mike Brookfield and finally, the record was engineered and mixed by Peter Eades, produced by Mike and mastered by Billy Farrell.

Opening track 'A Message For Willie Johnson' takes no prisoners and certainly hits the ground running, barging in with the first of many great riffs that propel the album through, pushed along by some tight drumming and bumping bass. Vocally, Mike has a solid voice and although not particularly distinctive in terms of tone, it is well recorded, sitting nicely in the mix and serves these songs well. The overall sound is also very full with most tracks having several guitar parts layered up, over which Mike delivers endlessly creative and imaginative solos.

'Beaten To Death By The Blues' is a slightly slower, choppy number whilst 'Zombie Craze' is just great fun, overdriven guitars in ZZ Top mode and a song as gloriously daft as its title suggests. Brilliant stuff!

'Suitcase Blues' is a stately ballad, with fine harmony vocals that build the track beautifully and it also features some real showcase, Joe Bonamassa type smouldering guitar solos.

And so it goes throughout the album - song after song of great performances that are not just confined to the Blues. In fact, perhaps only one track here immediately hits with that traditional 12 Bar Blues vibe, the Muddy Waters 'Mannish Boy' sounding 'Hi Class Shoes'. As with a lot of contemporary Blues played by the likes of Joe Bonamassa, Derek Trucks, Ian Siegal and late, greats such as Gary Moore and Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Blues are just a starting point for a much wider musical palette that takes in Rock, Pop, Bar Room country, Celtic Rock and more.

For me, some of the songs work better lyrically than others. Mostly, the imagery and sentiments feel a comfortable fit, particularly the lovely mythology on songs like 'A Message For Willie Johnson', but some of the more obvious 'protest' themes seem a little dated. For example, the 'They say we're living in a better world but how can that be true when the government does nothing good and there's nothing you can do' lyrics from 'Living In A Better World' jar and this feels a very 70's generalised and simplistic position that just doesn't fit in 2017.

A minor quibble though, and other stand out tracks are the stately 'Don't Close The Gates' which features Mike's best vocal to my ears, 'Letter From The Devil' with its marvellously relentless guitar, drum and bass intro that put me in mind of the mighty Led Zeppelin and the cleverly doubled vocals of 'This Restless Heart'.

'Brookfield' is a very enjoyable album indeed, varied, interesting, commercial, beautifully performed and recorded. Mike himself is a marvellous guitarist, with a seemingly bottomless 'riff reservoir' that propel, adorn and dress each of the songs here. But perhaps more importantly, the songs also stand on their own merits and feel so much more than 'vehicles' for the next guitar solo, which would be an easy mistake to make with a player this good. Sure, I think a couple of numbers could have been edited a bit to sound a little more contemporary in terms of subject matter, but that's just personal preference and these are bound to be someone else's favourite songs!

Great stuff and I imagine only bettered by catching Mike and his band bang these tunes out live!

Paul Jackson