Album Review – CD Insight

Bryen Willems – No Band Here Till Friday

By Joe Ross
March 22, 2012

Lyrics for the four Bryen Willems originals are included in the CD jacket for the honky tonker’s second alt-country release. The album’s title “No Band Here Till Friday” is actually part of the hook embedded in the opener, “Two For One Cocktails,” which sets the stage for the bar where you’re dancing to your song and the jukebox is free. And he closes the project with Mel Tillis’ “Honky Tonk Song,” featuring the lead guitar work of Texan Redd Volkaert. With other covers like Buck Owens’ “Together Again” (sung as a duet with Mary-Anne Burton) and Hank Williams’ “You Win Again” during the set, you hear creative arrangements of classic country standards that never fail to please.

We also hear classics by Steve Earle, George Strait and Johnny Paycheck. Willems’ eclectic side is showcased in the western swing rendition of “Ace in the Hole,” and his self-penned country rocker, “She Let Herself.” His music is consistently strong and varied enough that you want to don your dancing shoes and put some light-footed spirit into your feet.

Willems has Louisiana roots but currently makes his home in Australia. His bass voice projects with a down under swagger, and I understand that the “Swamp Duck” also fronts a quintet called Bryen and the Bayou Boogie Boys. He probably doesn’t wrestle with gators and crocs in his spare time, but he shows plenty of strength, power and muscle in his country music.

Joining in on the bayou boogie are some fine country musicians, most from Australia. Arrangements emphasize a nice mix of both acoustic and electric instruments with the likes of Tomi Graso (pedal steel), Hamish Davidson (fiddle), Michael Varecka (piano, keys), Jake Lardot (lead guitar), Gary Brown (Dobro and more), Malcolm Hamerston (drums) and Allan Tomkins (bass). Some favorite harmonies are heard on those three tracks that incorporate backing vocals from The Brookvalettes (Mary-Anne Burton, Nicki Gillis, Karen Willems), as well as those two tracks with The Harmonators (Rae Moody, Liz Kinninmont). With an occasional rugged edge in his delivery, Willems conveys abundant personality that underscores his love of country music with a classic sound. (Joe Ross, CD Insight)

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