Brooke Wylie – Don’t Waste the Silence
Thank god Brooke Wylie has a sense of humour; in December at a concert, she started laughing as soon as she saw me. And then handed me her newest album. We’re not sure exactly whose fault it was that I reviewed an old album for her a few months ago, but I felt pretty bad. So here’s the review of her new album, which at this point is getting to be not quite so new….
Don’t Waste the Silence is her best work yet, I think. I gave it a few listens and liked the mix of catchy and melancholy tunes; as it stayed in rotation, I realized I was singing the hooks to myself at the bus stop, while making dinner…that’s the mark of good writing.
Backed by a new collection of side people, Wylie has filled out her sound considerably. The catchy writing is enhanced by a bigger group of musicians who add diversity from their varying backgrounds. The main sidemen, the Weber Brothers, lock the songs into thick arrangements, aided by local producer Steve Loree. Meanwhile, rising stars The Travelling Mabels contribute gorgeous harmonies on “Always Be Mine”, local steel player Charlie Hase adds the country touch to the same song and to “Bells”, and the collective is completed by Shai Peer, Marcus Browne, and Scott Duncan. The best, though, is the appearance of Alberta singer-songwriter John Wort Hannam, whose rich voice is a perfect complement to Wylie on “I Will Miss Growing Old With You”.
I noticed in the credits that Wylie has further tapped into local talent by using singer-songwriter Dave McCann to design the album cover; McCann’s other vocation is graphic design, and his busier visual aesthetic fits nicely with Brooke’s bigger sound.
Wylie’s been through some major life changes, foremost among them her relocation to Winnipeg over the last year. We seem to return to Calgary at the same times, and when we run into each other, are mutually sympathetic to the turning points we find our lives at. I suspect that’s why I like this album so much. January is often a time for starting over, but also reflection. We hide in our houses away from the cold wondering how to fix what we’ve done wrong, using regret as a springboard into a more hopeful future. Wylie covers those contradictory feelings thoroughly, moving from frustrated anger at a jerk guy in “Justified” and wistfulness over wasted time in “What a Fool am I” to bewilderment in “The Day I Won’t Find You Nowhere”. The midpoint of the album is perhaps the most charged: loud infuriation changes abruptly to sweet sadness between “Justified” and “I Will Miss Growing Old With You”. I believe the song was written about a friend that Wylie lost suddenly and unexpectedly, but its universal sentiment makes it meaningful to anyone who has lost someone they assumed would be in their life forever.
While all of these songs make Don’t Waste the Silence a strong album, I realized that my favourite was slowly making its way into my consciousness over a long period. I finally recognized that yesterday when I listened to the words more closely. It’s a bit of a secret favourite for me, so all I’ll say is that I totally identify with the lyrics of “Always Be Mine”, and that it broke a long period of writer’s block for me, helping me finish a chapter of my book. For that, Brooke, I’ll be forever grateful. You just never know what a song is going to do for someone.
On a personal note, I’m wishing Brooke the best year she could imagine, and I’m telling the rest of you to go find Don’t Waste the Silence; it will be the perfect antidote to a cloudy winter day. You can find all of Wylie’s albums on her website.