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Dean Brody

Gypsy Road – 2015 (Open Road Recordings)

Reviewed by Dustin Blumhagen

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CDs by Dean Brody

Dean Brody is currently one of Canada's hottest country stars. His music rests somewhere in the middle of contemporary country; more authentic than the bro country sounds of fellow Canuck Dallas Smith, yet more mainstream than Canadian traditionalist Gord Bamford.

His latest is a good introduction for new fans, as it effectively blends the varied sounds that he has explored in his career. First single and lead "Upside Down" is a catchy summer jam complete with whistles and a surf vibe in the vein of the island country king Kenny Chesney. He switches gears with the straightforward country sound of "Hillbilly," which is heavy on both the banjo and stereotypical lyrics. Unfortunately, it comes across as a watered down version of his hit from the last album, "Mountain Man."

But things shift as "Monterey" brings the listener back to the beach, with a wistful track about enjoying lazy summer days with friends as a young man. The sole misstep is "Bring Down the House," which attempts to blend the banjo with dance beats and awkward phrasing. Brody has built a career on solid country song writing and should be above this sort of corny attempt to chase trends. A quick press of the skip button will lead to a song that makes up for it.

On his last album, Brody teamed up with Lindi Ortega on the wonderful ballad "Bounty," and he revisits the story with a charming sequel, "Sweet Lola," a humorous tale of Canadian tourists gone wild in Mexico. The Dobro comes out for "Love Would be Enough," a sweet lighthearted love song, then gets funky on the catchy love song, "Everything's Better with You." There is the obligatory small town song and a faithful cover of a Joe Nichols track as one of the bonus tracks. It seems like an odd love song choice on this summer friendly album, where something like Kenny Chesney's "Wild Child" would have fit the theme better.

The album isn't all lighthearted fare though. Brody gets serious on "Footprints of a Giant," which reflects on the murder of a soldier in Ottawa. The poignant song takes the perspective of a child who has lost their military parent and provides the sole dark moment on a relatively upbeat album. The subject matter is a noticeable shift in tone, which makes the impact e stronger.

The deluxe version of the album adds two extra tracks. The tender ballad "Old Friend" is a tribute to a loved one who has passed away. The album closes with an acoustic version of a previously released track, "Trail in Life." This stripped down version of the song adds emotional weight to the already heavy lyrics about loss. These three tracks stand out on the album for their melancholy tone. If they weren't included, "Gypsy Road" would be a lighthearted summer album.

Brody has included some beach country songs on his past releases, and they would have made for great choices as acoustic bonus tracks. These three tracks add balance to the release, but the stark mood shift may be jarring for some listeners who just want to listen to some country music while hanging out with friends.

"Gypsy Road" sounds like a Canadian version of a Kenny Chesney album. Brody is a likeable guy who enjoys writing songs and can weave simple beach songs together with love songs and serious material like "Footprints of a Giant." Overall, it has a stronger country edge than a lot of modern Nashville country, while still maintaining a radio friendly edge. This is a solid album from a Canadian country artist who hasn't seen a lot of recognition south of the border.