Crystal Brandt
"Bessie's Last Stand"

(Mungler Winslowe Records 2003)Crystal Brandt - Bessie\'s Last Stand

As she highlights her own lead vocals in a higher tone, Crystal Brandt could be a toned down PJ Harvey. Or by her straightforward delivery, Brandt could remind of an emotional Fiona Apple without going over the top. The beauty of Brandt's voice is the way she can sing several different styles, change her voice to suit the song, without you even realizing as she sings, say, blues and then folk and country. Not to mention that Brandt plays all the instruments on her album deftly and quickly grabs your ear.

From the first notes of the unique and likable "A Little Something," Brandt sounds like a mix of country, blues and alternative as her voice lilts over a piano, acoustic guitar and percussion blend compared to the strong vocal delivery and sparser, lighter instrumentation of "Watch What You're Saying." Somewhat reminiscent of the instrumentation of Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds' "As I Sat Sadly By Her Side," "Like Water" has full instrumentation and a slightly faster pace to make for a moving and memorable song. Brandt sounds distinctly like Apple on "Way Past" with her broad, rich vocals. Slower and accented by straightforward electric guitar licks, "Pier Side" offers some musical variety in the form of ballad. Led by banjo and Brandt's own jangling vocals, "Fire And Brimstone" has an authentic blues sound while "Jerks To Work With" is rhythmic and catchy. "It's not what you've taken away, it's what you left me with/It's not that you went away, it's that you left everything like this/So how is it now/why did you do what you did/what did I do that was so bad?" Brandt asks on the tender and emotional, "No It Doesn't," a soft ballad. Brandt evokes Janis Joplin's version of "Me And Bobby McGee" on the quiet verses of "Wide Awake" before the melodic and strong yet feather light "Camera Girl" whose vivid lyrics paint a picture of a girl in New York City. "Know The Way" is comforting with its simplicity before the stripped "Wet," relying solely on guitar and maracas. Brandt's engaging with "Bottle Of Wine," a strong closing track with full instrumentation.

While it might be Bessie's last stand, let us hope it is not Crystal Brandt's. "Bessie's Last Stand" is strong throughout with smooth, crisp vocals and engaging instrumentation. Each song on the album is distinct, pulling you in but never rambling on. Crystal Brandt is in full control on "Bessie's Last Stand" and each turn offers another accent that adds to the music.

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