Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
It's probably the cute and boyish face that Brett Dennen has that makes you think of him as a younger man than he actually is. You think he might just be of that age where video games are worshipped. It's the freckles and the adorably doughy cheeks that they're on - they throw you for tumbles. It's the mischievous, but sweet glint in his eyes and that orange hair of his that make him look the part of a teenager. It's his tender voice that lulls you into misconceptions of youth, but then the words start billowing from his mouth - that voice forming his ideas into proportions and dimensions - and he no longer is a young fellow any more, but one of those learned old souls. Dennen, a California boy in his early 30s, has developed a worldview that belies those freckles and that boyish demeanor, albeit one that comes in a tall and sturdy 6-foot-lots frame. He comes across on "Hope For The Hopeless," as a guy who tosses and turns at night thinking about and caring so badly for his friends, his family, and complete strangers out there who are facing personal difficulties or are subjugated by other people, who are getting stamped out emotionally, dashed of their spirit. He probably gets those cold sweats, the ones that leave his head making millions of revolutions per minute, concerned that he's not doing enough good in the world or is completely unable to do anything more to help his fellow man and woman, child and senior citizen. For many people, graciousness and benevolence is a forced makeover that is shown when it's most needed, when that look will benefit them, and then it's dialed back almost completely, as if it's being saved for the most opportune times, but Dennen sounds as if he, or the characters he writes in his songs don't have those selfish bones. The great thing about this whole situation is that it never comes off as goodie-goodie, but more like someone wanting to write songs from the perspective of and as a decent human being. It's warming and it's surprisingly unique. It affects you. You feel like going out and finding a child that just fell and scraped up their knees on the playground and pull them back up, console them and very innocently give them a couple bucks for and ice cream cone, whenever the truck comes around the block. You want to be better yourself, damn it. As Dennen sings in "Follow Your Heart," "Follow your heart and you won't get lost," it's as if he's taken those words by themselves and applied them or screen-printed them directly onto his heart, where they can fade away and they can influence. He seems to do that with his folkie-via-the-California-waves vibes that he gives off, a sound that is comparable to Jack Johnson doing something along the lines of Sondre Lerche - just effervescent and pure, holding the baloney and the posturing from the art. Earlier in "Follow Your Heart," the very first lines of what may be his most autobiographical song, he sings or admits, "I am a dreamer/And I'm a lover/I've been let down and I've been loved and lost," and without having said it until this late in the album, it doesn't matter all that much. It's how we'd already been hearing him and attempting to understand the inner monologue that he feels he needs to express. It's a gorgeous exchange, the one that Dennen makes between his wishes and dreams and his listeners and it seems that he refuses to believe that there will ever come a time when beautiful things cannot have themselves begat from the lonesomeness, the thorn bushes or the black clouds.
Brett Dennen Official Site