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
Eric Thom - Review
Fans of Vancouver’s Twisters know of Brandon Isaak’s powerful contributions to this band’s hard-swingin’ definition of blues – and it’s for this reason alone that Bluesman’s Plea demands added attention, if not a 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 – sounding so completely comfortable in the role as to make you rethink what you thought you knew about him. Who knew? Proof positive that life in the Yukon offers more than short hours of daylight and half-priced pemmican – or maybe that’s why? These fresh originals roll off Isaak’s lap like old dogs, his vocals an unexpected soulful match to his already-phenomenal guitar skills and distinct edge with a slide, as his feet gently tap out the time. His “You Gotta Pray” picks up the pace, channeling Ry Cooder’s gospel attack, led by his buttery slide, augmented by Chris’ support vocals. “Tell Me Why” elevates the tone with loads of personality as Brandon’s harp and syrupy guitar erupts into Chester Burnett-like howls and a deep feeling of loss. Contrast the vaudevillian feel of “Ain’t No Pleasin’ You” to the party-themed ode to over-drinking with “Too Much Wine” – a plodding, repetitive groove that reveals Brandon’s soulful side. Hard to believe that this release resulted from someone asking him to do a solo show – it hadn’t occurred to him. Our gain.
– Eric Thom - Penguin Eggs
Top 100 Canadian Singles
There's a smoothness on a lot of tracks, but it's the good kind, not wimpy but instead soulful. Isaak really shines when he puts the gospel into his music, not literally, but grabbing the good swing found in those uplifting tones. You Gotta Pray is a number to get you out of the personal blues, and sees him getting close to preacher vocals. Instead of other bluesmen, at several points on the disc I find myself thinking about Lyle Lovett, and that's meant as a big compliment.
Even when the disc leans towards cliche, such as the lyrics on Hard Workin' Woman, where his baby is leaving on a big jet plane, the production quality, the sound, and the voice make the song winner. Luckily, there are far more gems with something new in them. He gets a slow funky groove going for A Little Wine, a cautionary tale, and for Tell Me Why, Isaak lets his inner Howlin' Wolf come out. Always known (and nominated) as a strong songwriter on the national blues scene, Isaak pushing to the head of the pack with this work.
Review by John Vermilyea
There comes a time in your life, if you are very lucky, that you get the opportunity to realize that you are doing exactly what you were meant to do, Brandon Isaak, I believe has finally reached that stage in his life, and his amazing new debut release, "Bluesman's Plea" proves that to the rest of us.
Brandon Isaak has been an important part of the Canadian music scene, for a fair number of years now, most notably as the Frontman, as well as the main Guitarist and Songwriter for the hugely popular award winning Canadian Jump Style Blues Band, The Twisters. Brandon has also had the good fortune, over the years, to perform with a host of greats, such as, Corey Harris, Guy Davis, Taj Mahal, Colin Linden, Serena Ryder, The Sojourners and Jim Byrnes as well as electric greats like… Jeff Healey, Joe Louis Walker, Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne, and Chicago Blues Diva Zora Young just to name a few." Brandon Isaak has also recently performed as an acoustic duo with Harpdog Brown, for which he used the moniker Yukon Slim.
Brandon Isaak's songwriting skills garnered the limelight in 2010 and 2011, with him being nominated for a 2010 Maple Blues Award in the category of Song Writer Of The Year and he was chosen for the Canadian Song Quest 2011 in which he was one of 13 Canadian songwriters whom were picked to write a song about their Province.
Brandon Isaak's Solo career began innocently enough, when "in the summer of 2010 he was asked to do a Solo performance. It was the first one he ever done. Brandon shone!" It is the pure intimacy of that show that comes across loud and clear on "Bluesman's Plea", with a wonderful feeling of oneness Brandon manages to bring to his audience whether live or when listening to his album. Brandon draws you into his performances and offers up to us all, a more genuine feeling of how the blues should be played and heard.
"Bluesman's Plea" consists of 14 diverse Tracks, all of which are originals written by Brandon Isaak. The songs showcase a number of styles including Ragtime, Delta Blues, Piedmont, Gospel, Swing, and a touch of Country. Brandon describes the songs as being "true stories of love, life, and death". In addition to Vocals, Brandon Isaak also plays Guitar, Bass, Harmonica, and Foot Percussion and is joined by his well known brother Chris Isaak, whom plays Drums and does the Background Vocals on "Bluesman's Plea". Chris Isaak also Engineered and Produced "Bluesman's Plea" which was recorded at Blue-Star Studios in Whitehorse, Yukon.
"Bluesman's Plea" had a lot of favorites on it for me, but narrowing it down, I chose Track 2 the Gospel tinged "You Gotta Pray", Track 4 "Hard Workin' Woman", with Brandon's great Guitar work and the wonderful back beat courtesy of Chris Isaak, and Track 5 "Tell Me Why", with the mournful howl of Brandon's Harmonica playing.
When it came to "Bluesman's Plea", it was truly about the 3 Greats, Great Vocals, Great Musicianship, and Great Songwriting. "Bluesman's Plea" had all this and more and should have no problem keeping Brandon Isaak in the limelight for all those 3 qualities, especially his Songwriting.
"Bluesman's Plea" is an extraordinarily good album for a Debut release, and one in which I hope follows many more, as a solo artist.
Review by John Vermilyea (Blues Underground Network)
Blinded By Sound
Isaak, usually found fronting Vancouver-based jump-blues band The Twisters, is largely on his own with Bluesman’s Plea, and instrumentation is primarily acoustic. There’s nothing quaint or dated about Isaak’s music, though. An all-original collection (eleven songs, with three ‘bonus’ cuts), there are enough ‘modern’ touches, courtesy of producer, engineer, drummer (oh, and younger brother, too) Chris Isaak, to keep this from a stroll down memory lane.
The title track kicks things off, with Isaak’s acoustic guitar, shimmery slide, and faint foot-stomps giving it a classic pre-war sound that seems snatched from the dustbin of history. But Isaak quickly picks up the pace with You Gotta Pray, contributing bass as well as chiming guitars to a tune with an obvious gospel pedigree and a jaunty groove, proving he’s equally adept on either side of the sacred/profane divide. There are hints of country, too, and traces of ragtime here and there. Yet while Isaak borrows a bit for his song structures (a few songs sound vaguely familiar, notably Ain’t No Pleasin’ You, reminiscent of Just Because, a once-upon-a-time hit for Elvis), they’re all, as the liner notes state, “true stories about love, life, and death.”
Chris’ production is most evident on three tracks that feature ‘found sound.’ Hard Workin’ Woman begins with a voice-over recording of airplane boarding instructions, and quickly becomes a lament for the titular hard-working woman whose business travels keep her away from home more than Isaak would like. Take My Message includes a brief snippet of an old-time, fire-and-brimstone sermon, while A Little Wine includes with muffled news reports and moody background effects that lend the tune an eery, vaguely claustrophobic air – it’s unsettling and arguably a bit out of place on the set list, but as a cautionary tale – how quickly ‘a little wine’ becomes too much wine – it works just fine.
For the most part, though, the feel is fairly sunny. Chris Isaak’s drums are unobtrusive in the extreme, adding a minimal bit of rhythmic drive while never drawing attention away from Brandon’s fleet and agile picking. And the elder Isaak proves a fine singer indeed, with just a hint of a growl on occasion that adds a welcome touch of grit. He also adds harmonica to a track, though it’s pretty rudimentary and primarily for effect.
Above all, Isaak comes accross as relaxed and thoroughly comfortable – these are, after all, his songs, and he inhabits them as though they’re simply a part of his DNA. His delivery is effortlessly honest and candidly intimate, the easy-going sound of an old friend singing songs simply because they satisfy his own soul.
The results make for riveting listening. This is good stuff …
Toronto Blues Society Review
Free Press Review
With titles like Ain’t No Pleasin’ You, Hard Workin’ Woman and Gotta Let You Go, Isaak clearly runs the gamut of human emotion in his songs.
Originally from the Yukon, Isaak is well known as front man, main songwriter and guitarist with the Vancouver jump band The Twisters, who have played to rave reviews for Prince George Blues Underground dances in recent years. A top-ranked and versatile musician, Isaak is a master storyteller with a sharp sense of humour and love of the blues that has won him fans and awards.
His live performances show him in his best blues balladeer light. His lyrics are appealing, his singing soulful and uplifting.
Isaak plays a wide variety of music styles in his dynamic one-man shows including ragtime, country rock/blues, Delta blues, Piedmont, gospel and swing in the mix.
In 2010, Isaak was nominated for Songwriter of the Year at the Maple Blues Awards and was one of 13 artists selected to write songs for CBC ‘s Great Canadian Song Quest 2011.
Isaak plays the Ottawa Winterlude Festival Feb. 3, 4 and 4. On the 5th he plays Rainbow Bistro with Canada’s “Best Blues Harmonica Player,” Steve Marriner.
He will be in Prince George Feb. 9 to 12. For more on the artist and tour dates visit www.brandonisaak.ca.
-Teresa Mallam - Prince George Free Press
-John Taylor, Canadian Blues.
"Isaak has turned in one of the best traditional blues albums in years. Brandon's vocals are a soulful match to his already-phenomenal guitar skills and distinct edge with a slide."
-Eric Thom - Penguin Egg's
“Bluesman’s Plea” will bring Brandon the world class recognition he deserve as an artist, a songwriter and blues balladeer. The States have Keb Mo’, Sweden has Eric Bibb and now Canada has Brandon Isaak."
-Peter DeBelle, Blues Critic
"Brandon not only plays his guitar but he plays his audience like a ringmaster in his own circus."
-Teresa Mallam, Prince George Free Press.
"Brandon Isaak is clearly a gifted vocalist and Musician."
-James Walker, Blues Blast Magazine.
"This is what modern blues is all about. Tight arrangements, Great vocals and spot on yet understated instrumental performance.All with a firm foot hold into the roots and tradition of roots and blues."
-Barrelhouse Blues News, Boston, Mass.
"Brandon is my first pick for all around guitarist. He's got that vintage sound and style, and he's just as proficient in RnB, Funk and Blues. He's a young man with an old soul."
-Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne.
I do not say this lightly...Brandon Isaak's Bluesman's Plea album may be my favourite album of 2012 !
-Steve Spoulos, KRVM's Breakfast with the blues, USA.
Review: By Brant Zwicker
At the Crossroads Blues Radio
AWARDS AND ACCOLADES
Bluesman's Plea - "Best Debut Album" and "Best CD Cover Art" by The Blues Undergrounds Best of The Blues 2011
Juno Award winner for (Blues Record Of The Year) with his guitar playing on Kenny Wayne's CD,( Let It Loose,) 2008.
Real Blues Award for (Top 5 Guitar Players In Canada. )
Nominated for (Songwriter of the Year) by the Maple Blues Awards 2009.
Nominated for (Producer of the Year) by the Maple Blues Awards 2009.
Nominated for (Blues Recording of the Year) by Western Canadian Music Awards, 2009
Indie Award for work on (Long Hard Road) as (Blues Record of the Year, 2001)
Nominated for a Juno Award for CD (Long Hard Road, 2001)
Signature series guitar
By Ken Bolton - Whats Up Yukon