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After years under the radar, Brett Dennen releases new album to rave reviews

Zac Ruetz

Issue date: 10/17/08 Section: Focus
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Brett Dennen, a fairly new face to the folk/alternative rock scene, got his start as a former camp counselor in Northern California. Just a few short years later, his recent break-through success can be characterized by his deeply infectious lyrics, warmly melodic tones, and a refreshingly unique image that the music industry has yet to recognize. Created with multi-platinum producer John Alagia (John Mayer, Dave Matthews Band), Dennen's junior studio album Hope for the Hopeless will hit stores and iTunes on Oct. 21. Making leaps and bounds in terms of his evolution as a musician, Dennen utilizes a more focused, narrative-rich songwriting style that is reminiscent of ballads by Jason Mraz, John Mayer, and Ben Folds, all of whom he has toured with in the past as a supporting artist.

The relaxed, jazz-influenced acoustic guitar chords mated with Dennen's warm and gentle vocals will certainly catch any first-time listener off guard. In finding a genuine, honest, and conversational way to write lyrics, Dennen has been able to transmit through his songwriting a broad spectrum of distinctive scenes and styles, including indications of some of his biggest influences in Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, The Rolling Stones, as well as particular styles of African music.

"Make You Crazy," the album's first single, involves the catchy and clever collaboration with Nigerian Afro-beat star Femi Kuti, and remains one of the heaviest political songs on the album. A close second on the album is "Closer to You," a song in which the timbre of the guitar and the tone of Dennens voice will unquestionably give the listener goose bumps. With lines like "all the crooks on Capitol Hill and the criminals on the dollar bills/ all the money on Wall Street still couldn't keep me getting closer to you," Dennen is not playing around with his hard-hitting lyrics.

In a recent phone interview, Dennen spilled the beans to his own genius, professing his No. 1 rule for songwriting: "Be authentic, be true to yourself, come from the heart, and play something that you might be afraid to say; maybe expose yourself a little bit." Remarkably, all this recent success and publicity hasn't gotten to his head, and when asked if his increasingly growing recognition has influenced his songwriting, Dennen quaintly responded, "No, I'm going to keep doing what I've been doing, 'cause that's how I've gained recognition in the first place."
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