Awards and Nominations
The 2014 Maple Blues Awards - Won ( Acoustic Act Of The Year ) Nominated for ( Song Writer Of The Year ) &
( Recording / Producer Of The Year.)
The 2014 Western Canadian Music Awards - Nominated for ( Blues Album Of The Year )
The 2013 Maple Blues Awards - Nominated for ( Song Writer Of The Year ) & ( Acoustic Artist Of The Year.)
Winner of the B.C. Solo/Duo Blues Compitition. Now heading to Memphis in January for the World's.
Bluesman's Pleas is nominated for 2012 Western Canadian Blues Awards for (Best Blues Album Of The Year.)
The 2010 Maple Blues Awards - Nominated for ( Song Writer Of The Year.)
Maverick Magazine Review
Fans of Vancouver’s Twisters already know of Brandon Isaak’s powerful guitar and vocal contributions to their hard-swingin’ definition of blues. It’s for this reason alone that Bluesman’s Plea demands full attention, if not some degree of shock. Isaak, ably assisted by his brother Chris in their Yukon-based studio, has turned in one of the best traditional blues albums in years – detouring from the West Coast swing and R&B-based blues sounds he’s known for – sounding so completely comfortable in this newfound role as to make you wonder if it’s the same player. Who knew? The Yukon’s short hours of daylight surely force one to focus, while extra hours of night provide the luxury of time to plot one’s course, write for multiple parts and to fully capitalize on a brother’s studio skills. Whatever the reason, this combination proves deadly as this bluesman brings forward 14 originals that sound like he’s been playing this way all his life – or should be. The title track is particularly haunting – primarily because you’re blindsided by the unexpected subtlety of his approach. He’s long gone by the stage moniker of Yukon Slim – here, it fits. Nothing but a haunting vocal, a blend of finger-picked guitar, a side of slide and a tapping foot moves the past forward before being usurped by a comparatively upbeat, gospel-driven “You Gotta Pray” picks up the mood. Brandon’s guitar playing is enchanting and, with Chris providing backup vocals, his own vocals help deliver something surprisingly Cooder-esque. Brimming with confidence, “Leaving This Town” confirms this is no fluke – as Isaak’s slide and laidback vocal settle into a groove that picks up a notch with “Hard-Workin’ Woman”, with its added effects of an airport intercom. The album hits its zenith, however, with the lackadaisical “Tell Me Why” – a lazy, repetitive bit of magic which, with its addition of harp and Chester Burnett-styled howls, turns heartbreak into just another disappointment. Isaak’s slide is on parade with another upbeat burst of energy on “Forever Yours” while “Ain’t No Pleasin’ You” takes on an element of vaudeville in its perky delivery. Another highlight is found in “A Little Wine” – a ploddingly slow, repetitive beat and bassline providing the backdrop to the downside of drinking, complete with party backdrop. Isaak’s soulful vocal skirts Motown with its surprisingly funky edge across its too-short length. Who knew Isaak had such vocal control? A good example is provided in “Jump Start Me” – another Cooder-ish guitar piece loaded with slide and buoyant surrender. “Take My Message” is a bird of a different colour. A progressive, gospel-propelled number, it’s augmented by an excerpt of TV faith-healing as Brandon and brother Chris bring it to the church. Despite its 21st Century title, “Good @ Bein’ Bad” enjoys a ragtime treatment, recalling the swing from his time with the Twisters. Of course, no acoustic blues album would be complete without its shot of sexual innuendo and the final track, “Water Your Garden” doesn’t disappoint. He’ll have a lot of work to do come the spring. An outstanding release as Isaak stakes a fresh claim to somewhat tired territory, transforming it in the process.
- Eric Thom ****1/2
The Dirty Lowdown
It’s Brandon Isaak’s life set to blues, gospel. ragtime and country sounds. An interesting touch is that on a couple of tunes there is added bits and pieces of radio broadcast news, what sounds to be audience cross talk, and other little snippets that don’t exactly fit the vintage sound, but work oh so well here to perhaps highlight the songs meaning.
Brandon plays guitar and ‘foot percussion’, harmonica and bass while his brother Chris acted as recording engineer and provides some simple drums and backup vocals. It’s ear candy, a period of life set to music. Take a listen.
Isaak is best known as a front man and songwriter for the Canadian Jump Band, The Twisters based out of Vancouver, B.C.. he’s been hailed as a great blues guitarist and was nominated in 2010 for Song Writer Of The Year at the Maple Blues Awards. Over the years he has also been able to fulfill the dream of performing with some of his favorite musicians and influences; Corey Harris, Guy Davis, Taj Mahal, Colin Linden, Jeff Healey, Joe Lewis Walker and Kenny Wayne to mention a few. Vocally, in place he reminds me of Delbert McClinton, other places he channels Taj, then some of the gospel infused tunes bring back some of the great country blues singers of the ‘30s and ‘40s.
There’s some great blues music coming out of the frozen north and Brandon Isaak is leading the pack. You can download the CD from Isaak’s site or iTunes of course. You can also catch him in concerts and shows all over Canada and hopefully very soon, the states. Check here for show dates.
WRITTEN BY JOHN THE ROCK DOCTOR
This is Brandon isaak’s first solo album. He’s known more for his ‘day job’ as front man for The Twisters out of Vancouver, but this record could change all of that. As one blues critic has rightly pointed out, “The States have Keb Mo’, Sweden has Eric Bibb, and now Canada has Brandon Isaak.”
This reminds me of Tim Bastmeyer’s recent self- titled release in that the songs are raw and honest, and the songs are uncluttered. Musicians listed no this disc are Brandon (vocals, guitar, foot percussion, harmonica & bass) and Chris isaak (his brother, one would assume) on drums, backup vocals, as well as engineering and producing.
Recorded at Blue-Star Studios in Whitehorse, this disc feels like it could’ve just as easily come from Memphis. It’s one of the most authentic feeling and sounding blues albums you’ll ever hear. There’s a vintage sound to this disc and some real in the pocket playing that makes it a satisfying listen from front to back. Brant Zwicker, host of the excellent blues radio show At The Crossroads says “Styles range from Delta slide to rollicking country- blues, and the result is a laid back and totally satisfying album” I couldn’t have put it better myself. Bluesman’s Plea is the first truly great blues album of the year- and the first month is only half over!
TOP TRACKS: Tell Me Why, A Bluesman’s Plea, Gotta Let You Go
AMERICAN BLUES SCENE REVEIW
Plea kicks off with some finger picking Delta Blues on the title track. Brandon is a skilled songwriter, fitting just the right amount of words and all-important spacing into each track, letting the instruments do the talking when necessary. A catchy, repetitive track, “You Gotta Pray” is a simple joy. “Take My Message” has a traditional Southern Gospel feel, complete with a choir on the chorus. The track would be fully at home nestled in between “Old Time Religion” and “Will the Circle Remain Unbroken”.
Overall, Bluesman’s Plea is an album that shows off a range of traditionally pre-war styles with skilled & interesting lyrics. Fans of the Mississippi Sheiks or the contemporary one-man-band master Ben Prestage will certainly find enjoyment in this album. It is hard to get a handle on Brandon’s voice — occasionally smooth, occasionally twangy, occasionally rough. There is the occasional out-of-place track such as “A Little Wine”, and Isaak occasionally relies a little heavily on samples — though with the wide ability he obviously has, he certainly doesn’t need to. Ultimately, the bulk of the album is faithfully steeped in the traditional style that is simply a joy to experience.
BY MATT MARSHALL / AMERICAN BLUES SCENE