The Essex Lights is a band composed singer/guitarist/songwriter Michael Brawer, guitarist Grady Axton Davis and drummer Ben Nelson. Together, these three musicians create a band that makes rock music that is hard rockin’ and passionate. This powerful combination comes together in the music that is found on the band’s new release entitled Fast Love California.
Fast Love California from The Essex Lights begins with the song “Pride of Worchester”. Featuring lyrics of “Head west, child,” the song is sort of autobiographical for Michael Brawer as he did just that to follow his dreams of working in the entertainment industry. The song features a strong acoustic sound, as the track is built around the acoustic guitar of Brawer with Grady Axton Davis adding just enough electric guitar to give the song real depth and create an anthem-like feel to the track.
The combination of acoustic guitar and harmonica on the album’s second track of “Belle of the Ball” gives this track a sort of folk music flavor to the track. Add to that the energetic vocals of Brawer and you get a part folk/part punk combination, an interesting sound that may have some people pondering which direction the band wants to go. Somehow, the band makes that musical mixture work and that mixture makes “Belle of the Ball” one of the strongest tracks on the album.
The Essex Lights take a very different approach to the song “Forever a Contender”. Gone away is the acoustic guitar as both Michael Brawer and Grady Axton Davis create this song with two electric guitars. The background vocals to the track might remind some of the type of harmonies created by The Beach Boys on their songs. The harmonies and the stronger electrified sound of this track set this song apart from the first two songs and add a nice variety to the music of this album.
For the song “Angel City Ghosts,” the energy level is taken back up a notch. This track is the first real time that the listener gets the chance to hear the ability of the band members to play some all-out rock music. Michael Brawer, Grady Axton Davis and Ben Nelson prove on this track that there are still some people out in the music industry who want to create that “good old-fashioned rock sound”.
Just as you get used to the upbeat style of “Angel City Ghosts,” the band pulls the musical rug out from under the listener and slows the pace down. With the song “Stay Gold,” The Essex Lights return to an acoustic sound and slower pace in their music. The band picks up the pace just a little about half way through the song to ensure that the tune doesn’t drag you down.
“Life in the Time of the Crow” is probably the best song of the release from the Fast Love California release. The Essex Lights once again kick up the energy level and Brawer adds that same amount of energy to his lyrics as he sings. The resulting track is easily the hardest rockin’ song on the album, and just like “Angel City Ghosts,” the track allows the listener the chance to hear the band let loose with some good rock ’n’ roll.
After once again slowing the pace of the music down for the track “Postcards from Rio,” The Essex Lights return to their rockin’ ways on the song “Chelsea Smile”. The sound of “Chelsea Smile” might remind you a lot of the rock music that was played on college radio a few years before the term “Alternative Rock” was coined. The rock sound of this track brings back that sound and does it in a very strong way.
The final track of Fast Love California, “El Pistolero,” seems to contain the most production value as the music of the song was created using the most tracking of any of the songs on the release. The resulting song contains a lot of depth and really shows off the talent of the band. The song also brings the album to a close in a gentle way.
Throughout the nine tracks of Fast Love California from The Essex Lights, you get to experience the passion of the lyrics of the songs, the energy in the all-out rock songs contained within the release, and the passion of singer/guitarist Michael Brawer, guitarist Grady Axton Davis and drummer Ben Nelson. These elements help to create a very solid release from a trio of musicians who prove, from track to track, that there are still people out there who care about making good music.