Got a guitar, some songs, a few fans, and some friends and family? In the era of Kickstarter, you can probably make an album. Bryan Laurier is living proof. After raising just shy of two grand last summer, he brought seven guys up from Boston up here to Maine, laid down the basic tracks for his debut Bought & Sold, then tinkered with a few added tracks from pros via the Internet and the mixing and mastering until he had a finished product ready for release last month.
And it's pretty good.
The players Laurier collected all put in some nice turns. Jeremy Lee Given (on the Dracula Horse label out of Knoxville) provides some great piano, from the lonesome work that pairs with Brett Resnick's pedal steel in the opening "Love Me Again" to the hard-charge intro to "Honey, I Ain't Asking for Much." Jonathan Mess does great work, too, on the harmonica, with a full-bodied tone that gets even more distorted in "Time Ain't Slowin' Down."
There's even a full string section for the really quite pretty "Abigail," which apes some of Ray LaMontagne's work with Ethan Johns in its best moments. Bryan doesn't have Ray's depth of feeling (few artists do), but he does at times have a little something-something.
Other times, he sounds like a young guy who could use a few more trots around the block. "By Your Side" wants to be an Iron & Wine tune, but there's too much reverb on the vocals and not enough grit. The lyrics, too, want to be deeper than they are: "Well you find a note in your pocket, that you never knew was there/The words act like fingers, as they run through your hair."
Is that deep or just plain nonsense? He gets points for not ramping up to a full-band take as is the general inclination nowadays, but neither is it as gripping as it needs to be for its spareness and plodding pace.
With elements of Dylan, the Band, even a good dose of Jason Spooner, Laurier shows he's got pretty good taste and a knack for writing rootsy songs that good players can get behind. It's very likely his album is better than his solo performance, though, so keep that in mind as you see him playing out.
If this is what Kickstarter can do for a 22-year-old's first release, versus the demos of days of yore, it's shown at least some value. I'd like to see a label put this much windowdressing on a young songwriter for less than $2k.
Bought & Sold | Released by Bryan Laurier & the Lost Acres | with Jeff Beam | at She Doesn't Like Guthries, in Lewiston | July 28 | bryanlaurier.com