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  REVIEWS
   
  Roy Forbes, Singer, songwriter, producer:
'His soulful singing is a treat for the ears.
To hear Al Brant is to hear the sound of a true heart'.


Terry David Mulligan - Mulligan Stew:
"I LOVE this CD"

Tom Coxworth CKUA Host Folk/Roots"
"Journeyman songwriter Al Brandt has hit the mark with this roots flavored album - certainly one of this year's best"...

It’s a Talent Smorgasbord
Penguin Eggs Magazine, Barry Hammond
The title of this disc reflects Al Brant’s attitude to life, music and stylistic influences. He nearly quit the music business a little over four years ago, after sixteen years of playing and touring both with bands and as a solo act. Since making the decision to continue he’s been hired by the University of Alberta Hospital’s Artists On The Wards program to play for patients, an experience he finds very rewarding. He received an honourable mention in the international John Lennon song-writing competition in 2003. He’s also been involved in The Christmas Carol Project with other Edmonton-based musicians including Maria Dunn, Bill Bourne, Dale Ladoucer, Tom Roschkov, Terry Morrison, Ken Brown and Kevin Cook. Bellstruck Productions Inc. in association with CHUM Television produced a televised version of the show, which aired on City TV, Access, A-Channel and Bravo! across Canada in December 2006. This new disc, produced by session bass player, Mike Lent, gives the listener a solid slice of Brant’s music: sensitive, heartfelt and varied, from his own singer-songwriter mode to more rocky and funky fare, from a trombone section on Chasin’ Nothin’, to jazzy flute on Digital Girl, including a cover of the Allman Brothers’ Come & Go Blues. It’s a talent smorgasbord that deserves to be widely heard. Hopefully, the disc will help break his career wide open, too.

Have Guitar, Will Perform
Al Brant is wide open to the challenges and opportunities provided by music. Published November 4, 2010 by Curtis Wright in Music Preview

A musical performance piques when a connection is made; that unique relationship between an audience member and the performer can transcend the moment and evoke the most unspeakable emotions. It’s trite to write about it, but we’ve all felt some form of it one time or another; whether it’s part of an audience of 20,000 or part of an intimate 150 capacity room, or maybe a solo-show.
One-on-one.

Al Brant, on the eve of his latest offering of roots and Americana, Wide Open, indicates that although a distinct closeness was achieved at his release party in a smaller Edmonton café the night previous to this discussion, it doesn’t quite reach the intimacy levels of some of his other gigs.
“I’ve been at the University of Alberta Hospital working on the Friends Artist on the Ward program for seven years now — it’s designed to bring art to the bedside of the patient,” says Brant. “I go room to room in the ICU and play for patients there. Sometimes it gets pretty heavy. But it’s a definite honour to get asked to play for someone who is maybe on their way out.”

For many, you would think that this heaviness would create a lost, maybe disjointed musician, yet, as Brant admits, it’s created courage and inspiration for the singer celebrating his fourth solo release.
“It’s a totally different vibe. The difference is that one is a strict performance; the other is more of a deeply personal connection. I suppose that connection happens in a concert as well, but when I play in the ICU a patient may start talking to me and I stop playing. I think playing in the hospital has helped my live performances because I really connect in my one on one performances.”

This encouragement comes through on the eclectic Wide Open — the title track being homage to exactly that, being wide open to musical ideas and inspirations as they come along. Brant recognizes how his music affects the lives of others and made him a very fortunate full-time musician — backed by local legends Mike Lent, Sandro Dominelli, Mark Sterling and Barrie Nighswander.

“There are times when I get lost in my head as a solo musician; it’s a piss off. For me when I’m playing live it’s about what is going on with the band, or what have you. When you get stuck in your head — outside of the moment — it totally takes you away from the precious moment of playing music for an audience.”
For Brant, much the same as for anyone he visits at the hospital, a song offers that moment of escape and serenity. There’s nothing you can physically grasp with music, Brant admits, but there is so much there.
“Music allows me to escape as well — nine out of 10 times,” says Brant. “It has a really interesting way of taking people away from what is happening. Sometimes you’ll see people who are really stressed out or in pain, like at the hospital — you get the feeling that for those few minutes, they weren’t thinking about that.
That has value.”


Al Brant Wide Open to new ideas, July 2010
By Roger Levesque, Freelance, Edmonton Journal
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Edmonton singer-songwriter reaches new level of communication with his upcoming album

EDMONTON - He's been making music in one context or another for more than 20 years now, but Al Brant has still had his fair share of doubts about career choices.

"I finally realized just how much I love music," the Edmonton-born Brant admits, "and in the end music is the only thing I really know."

The roots-oriented singer-songwriter recommitted himself to his muse a few years ago. He approached Mike Lent last year to serve as a producer, and the result is a life-affirming new project,
Wide Open.

That album will have its official release in October. But tonight you can hear Brant and his crew preview most of the songs in concert as this summer's Qualico Patio Series gets underway at Festival Place in Sherwood Park.

Wide Open is Brant's fourth solo album overall. It's named after a specific tune, but that title really reflected his attitude going into the project.

"The whole process for me was about being open to other people's ideas. I was really open to Mike's suggestions about the songs or the music, and a lot of ideas came up in the studio too from the different players. For me, it felt kind of freeing. And some things turned out better than I ever expected."

One piece of luck came after Lent helped him hire Kevin Breit. The famous Toronto-based guitar genius was originally scheduled to play on a few tunes, but wound up lending his touch to the whole disc. Ditto for drummer Gary Craig (Blackie & the Rodeo Kings) who also became part of the core band.

Lent's bass, guitars from Mark Sterling, Russell Broom and Brant, and various guest vocalists filled out the sessions here or in Toronto. It all makes for an accomplished set of tracks, some leaning a little toward the blues or country, or even taking a popular sheen, but making you listen.

Growing up, Brant recalls, there was always music around the house. His mother trained to be an opera singer in New York before she married and had kids. Then there was the older brother who turned him on to classic rock. By 16, Brant had picked up guitar and started to write his own songs.

After winning a talent contest at the defunct Sidetrack Cafe early on as part of a duo, Brant met mentors like George Blondheim, who produced his initial demos, and Eddie Patterson, who hired him to sing with his fusion band.

Working with Patterson, John Armstrong, Jamie Kidd and others, Brant put out his first solo album, Let It Fly, in 1991, followed by Al Brant & the Waterbirds in 1996. The guitarist-singer also put out several albums with the Stone Merchants (later SMAC), and joined Tacoy Ryde in recent years. He is also an ongoing cast member of the Christmas Carol Project and plays for other musicians.

Still, his most unusual job has involved being an Artist in the Wards at the University of Alberta Hospital for the past seven years.

"Sometimes it can get pretty heavy when you know someone is dying, but it's usually very rewarding because you're helping people connect to their own musical experience and sometimes you write songs together."

Whether he knows it or not, you have to wonder if that work has rubbed off in the meaningful depths and uplifting bent that some of his songs take, but the material on Wide Open draws inspiration from all over. There's an ill-fated trip to Europe ( Italian Skies), a number about belief and faith ( Common Thread), a tune about how real communication has fallen off in the computer age ( Digital Girl) and the title piece about moving beyond a culture of fear.

Wide Open sees Brant stepping up to a new level of musical communication.

Brant plays Sherwood Park's Festival Place tonight with Mike Lent, Sandro Dominelli, Mark Sterling and Barrie Nighswander. Country singer Brooke Telenberg plays an opening set starting at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $8 at the door.

Brant is just the first of 16 acts playing Festival Place's Qualico Patio Series over eight Wednesdays at the popular outdoor venue during July and August. In case of poor weather, the show can move indoors on short notice.
   
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Al Brant on Alberta Morning, March 2008
Al Brant writes music that is soulful, reflective and life affirming.

It simply comes from the heart, creating images and drawing feelings from his listeners. Combined with a voice that has depth and incredible range, this makes for an unforgettable listening journey. Al Brant joined Tony King on Alberta Morning, as part of the "Discovery" feature, Wednesday, March 5th. Listen to the interview at:
www.ckua.org/audio/audioarchives/AlBrant.wma (15:53)

Brant goes acoustic on new CD
Peter North, Special to the Journal, Edmonton -- March 2007
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Songwriter's thoughtful, simple lyrics shine in Songs for the Early Morning Sun
 Because of his commitments to Tacoy Ryde, as well as family and employers, it has taken Al Brant a while to get around to recording his second solo disc.
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The wait for fans is over as the tune-smith, who day by day is resident artist at the University Hospital, has released a new collection titled Songs for the Early Morning Sun. It is a 12-song set that is built around Brant's ability to write uncluttered and thoughtful pieces, inspired by his eyes-wide-open walk through life.
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Unlike his previous solo outing, the decade-old Al Brant and The Waterbirds, or his work with veteran rockers Tacoy Ryde, this effort finds Brant's warm tone roaming through lyrics that are supported by a more acoustic setting.
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An all-acoustic affair, Brant and producers John Armstrong and Barry Allen spun the sympathetic, spirited playing of Tacoy guitarist Barry Nighwander and the many shades of Cliff Minchau's bass through songs that focus on positive emotions related to change, images of nature and memories of an influential relative.
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"I was at a point where I thought if I don't do this now I'm never going to get it done. Then I had a creative burst in the middle of 2006 and John and I got down to recording basic track," says Brant, who officially unveils the new tunes tonight at the Blue Chair Café.
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"The bare bones, acoustic approach is something I always wanted to do, and we were really open to players adding their stuff as they heard it. I think Barry is the heart and soul of a lot of this music."
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"Cliff contributed in so many levels, from the stomp thing that is the core of The Fingernail of God to all the percussion stuff that pops up here and there,"
says the songwriter, who gives listeners a glimpse into the life of his late grandfather on Tired Child and of a hospital patient he interacted with on 80 Roses for Anny.
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Amid the originals, Brant also slid in an interpretation of The Beatles' Dear Prudence.
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While fiddler and mandolnist Cam Neufeld and vocalist Terry Morrison guested on sessions, tonight's two sets will be a trio affair that wll also include a couple of tunes from Brant's first solo album and " an a cappella Tacoy Ryde piece."
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Ticket information is available by calling the Blue Chair at 989-2861.

Songs for the Early Morning Sun
Herb Barbee, RMR Staff Reviewer
“Al Brant’s latest CD, “Songs for the Early Morning Sun” is one really fine piece of work. The CD contains 12 tracks, 11 of which are original, and provides great variety and style as Mr. Brant wows you with his voice and his exceptional songwriting. Al’s lyrics are simple, yet thoughtful and so very soulfully presented. On a couple of the tracks, he demonstrates his impressive vocal range and throughout the album you can enjoy his unique roots style. Even the Beatles’ “Dear Prudence”, the only non-original on the CD, has Al’s distinctive spin on it. This is truly a great CD and one that is fun and easy to listen to. The only thing on the CD that will disappoint the listener is when the last song ends – but then, that’s why we have “Replay” buttons!

Al Brant Trio
EDEN MUNRO, eden@vueweekly.com
“Music’s a pretty social thing for me,” explains Al Brant about the recording of his new solo album. “I’ve got to have good friends around.” Brant has been playing with a lot of his friends for years now, so when he went into the studio—which was actually producer John Armstrong’s living room—with his trio, the group laid down most of the recording quickly and live off the floor, giving the rootsy affair an edge that Brant enjoys. The local songwriter says that the songwriting process took a bit longer than the actual recording, though, explaining that the process was helped along by his role as an Artist on the Ward at the University of Alberta hospital, where he sings for patients. “One of the reasons I was hired on is because I’m a songwriter,” he says. “I’ve tried a few songs out in the hospital, and there’s one song in particular that I wrote about a patient—a Russian lady, where I walked into the room and her face just lit up when she saw the guitar—because I write about things that are pretty close to me.”

Click HERE for additional reviews about Tacoy Ryde, the Carol Project, Waterbirds and SMAC
   
 

   
 

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