Brent Johnson: Set the World on Fire Review

The word “authentic” is often used as a highest form of praise regarding modern music. Perhaps this is because the industry is oversaturated. Accessibility to music has mushroomed with the advent of the internet, leaving countless acts to fight for attention in an increasingly competitive market and leaving music listeners with the tasks of acknowledging those artists who are merely regurgitating something else and seeking out those artists with relevant input – the authentic articles. This elusive authenticity is part of what sets Brent Johnson out against his competition. Johnson claims that he doesn’t consciously try to emulate the bluesmen he grew up listening to, opting to write whatever songs are rattling around in his head. The resulting record, Johnson’s debut Set the World on Fire, is Johnson’s own, authentic brand of blues.

Brent Johnson is a master at nursing his songs, giving each track the time needed to develop fully. Most tracks clock in just over or just under the five-minute mark, making lots of room for instrumental portions and tight guitar work. Tracks evolve seamlessly: take the final minute of the album closer and title track, “Set the World on Fire,” which sees the song shift into a psychedelic reggae rhythm with a progression reminiscent of Supertramp. “As the Years Go Passing By” (which clocks in just over thirteen minutes) straddles the line between a quiet 12-bar jam and a guitar-happy rock track. Johnson’s vocal performance is captivating as well, with Johnson often sounding as though he were channelling Don Henley (particularly on “Don’t Take it With You”). Set the World on Fire has an incredibly developed sound, credit being largely due to his six-piece band. Some of the strongest elements come from the subtleties of a second or third guitar in the mix (the fantastic “Meet Me in the Morning” stands out for this)

Set the World on Fire is a difficult album to fault. It’s mature, developed, and definitely authentic. It does, however, suffer from the occasional track being simply forgettable. “Glass Ceiling” offers a fantastic riff from the second guitar, but the repetition feels a little tired and doesn’t do much to counter the rather generic melody and progression it supports. The quick rhythms of “The Hucklebuck” make it feel a little too much like a caricature.

Regardless, Set the World on Fire should be on your listening list. Each song is thoughtfully executed with deliberation, and the strong moments outshine the forgettable ones by a long shot.

The Review: 8/10

Can’t Miss Tracks

– Meet Me in the Morning
– Don’t Make a Sound
– As the Years Go Passing By
– Set the World on Fire

The Big Hit

– Meet Me in the Morning

Review by Richard MacDougall

Buy the album: Amazon | iTunes

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