A few decades ago, when longtime L.A. gigging singer/pianist Bruce Brown first tried his hand at songwriting, he feared he could never measure up to icons like Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and Frank Loesser who had animated his own musical muse.
While still humorously dubbing himself one of the “children of a Frank Loesser god,” the multi-talented artist – a resident of Wellington, New Zealand for over 20 years – showcases a likeminded mastery of both wistful and whimsical songcraft on his insightful, reflective and exquisitely produced fourth album Death of Expertise.
With eminently sly and laid back cool and a swirl of light swing and bossa nova – and vibing with the graceful moods of an ensemble of American and Australian musicians he’s known and played with for years - Brown applies his gently inviting, Chet Bakeresque vocals to both witty incisive social commentaries and thoughtful reflections on gratitude and love in the wake of surviving a life-threatening stroke.
The unique cultural topics Brown tackles include our arrogance sense of knowing everything just because we can Google (“Death of Expertise”), the tendency to take the #MeToo movement too far (“They’re Everywhere”) and the wildly shifting meanings of words and phrases in this day and age (“Back in the Day”). On the more heartfelt side, he imparts his survivalist wisdom and feelings on life’s most important virtues on “Giving Up Is Not An Option,” “A Mind is a Terrible Thing” and “To Find Things Out.”
Brown’s deceptively simple harmony provides the ideal architecture for the songs, which allows the emotional impact of the lyrics to be conveyed more effectively. The attentive listener will be happily surprised by the ongoing juxtaposition of those beautiful harmonies and funny yet often challenging, always thought-provoking lyrics (check out “Doreen” for some true mind bending magic!). To catch all of his delightful artful nuances, you should probably put Death of Expertise on repeat and immerse as deeply as you can.