Danny Bryant: Means of Escape Review

The cover of Means of Escape, singer/guitarist Danny Bryant’s wonderfully enjoyable 11th studio album, features a black-and-white photo of Bryant standing alone on a road, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. He holds his Stratocaster in his hand, not as if he’s about to play it, but rather like he’s bringing it somewhere, carrying it like a leaf blower or a mop. It brings to mind two images. One involves the iconic story of the legendary Mike Bloomfield walking into the session for Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited, similarly carrying his Telecaster sans case, wiping the rain off of it, plugging in, and blowing everyone away. The other image is of an NFL tight end, what with Bryant’s broad shoulders and intense stare, somehow reading as simultaneously scared and intense.

Both images tell you everything you need to know about the album. People like Bryant and Bloomfield carry their guitars like they’re luggage and not Fabergé eggs because they see their instruments as extensions of themselves. Both have a natural flow to their playing that makes their solos feel more conversational than performative. Artists like Bryant and Bloomfield aren’t trying to impress you with their playing; it’s just a side effect of their doing what they love to do.

And the tight end image? That’s Bryant’s muscular playing that saturates just about every track on the album. He finds holes in the songs and then plows through, creating space where none previously existed. In that way, he shares more with Mountain’s Leslie West, who had a similar tone and style, than with Bloomfield (or Rob Gronkowski).

A great example of Bryant’s power playing can be heard on “Too Far Gone,” a slow (for Bryant) blues. He uses a big band configuration here, with the song a bed of horns, piano, and organ. It’s all pretty and balanced, until Bryant brings in his guitar, bursting the song open. His tone is pure distortion, without sounding dirty or muddy. And his vibrato feels like the song is being played in the middle of an earthquake. His playing dominates the song.

But not completely. Because Bryant also has an amazing voice that calls back to his look on the cover of Means of Escape: powerful yet vulnerable. He has a wonderfully out-of-control vocal quality on “Too Far Gone,” but even when he’s using a more traditional rock voice, like on the power ballad “Where the River Ends,” there’s still a refreshingly honest catch in his voice.

But as good as his voice is, the appeal of the album is Bryant’s playing. Even his slide playing is powerful. “Hurting Time” shows off a slide style that’s big and wide, like a tractor trailer. This isn’t the nimble slide you hear from slide players like Sonny Landreth or Derek Trucks, but it more than stands up to his band. Some of the power comes from the guitar’s placement in the mix, but most of it is due to Bryant’s huge tone, which successfully soaks everything it touches.

Means of Escape is a fun album, featuring lots of old-school blues rock soloing. The songs, all originals, are fairly standard and familiar. But the performances are what command your attention, with passionate solos that you never want to see end. This is pure rock and roll that’s only barely tempered by Bryant’s blues influences. If not for the contemporary production, also by Bryant, this could be a lost 70s blues rock classic. The cover of Means of Escape accurately, and artistically, conveys everything great about this album.

The Review: 9/10

Can’t Miss Tracks

– Tired of Trying
– Too Far Gone
– Where the River Ends
– Means of Escape
– Mya

The Big Hit

– Tired of Trying

Review by Steven Ovadia

Buy the album: Amazon | Amazon UK

Steven Ovadia

Steven Ovadia interviews blues artists about their songwriting process for Working Mojo.

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