EPs are appetizers, and the best EPs are the ones that leave listeners lusting after a full-length. Randy double-meanings aside, Gentry Bronson teases newbies with his latest effort, a four-track CD that captures the Bay Area musician’s various moods and creative styles. This is authentic singer/songwriter craftsmanship and not the bogus cookie-cutter acoustic pop of Jack Johnson and his clones. In the emotionally fragile opening cut, Bronson describes himself as “living in a world that’s falling apart.” On one hand, it’s a reflection on middle age; as you become older, heading past your 30s and on the road to gray hairs and wrinkled skin, you seem to fade away from a world that worships the young. In other words, you become like a ghost, haunting daily life while still alive. But it can also be viewed as the state of the nation post-9/11, a country on the brink of political and financial ruin. Whichever way “Beautiful Ghost” is interpreted, there’s no denying the razor-sharp edges of Bronson’s observations.
The lighthearted “Wild Women” echoes Bronson’s San Francisco roots. This John Mellencamp-styled character piece pays tribute to the liberated female, in this case a chick who “walks around naked with a pair of boots on.” That could very well describe the hippie girls of Bronson’s beloved city. Although the title makes one think of the R-rated fantasies of ’80s spandex metal, Bronson takes a literary, feminist approach to the subject. He is celebrating their love of freedom, the giddiness they feel in proudly strutting nude before their neighbors. Musically, “Wild Women” doesn’t have the rock-charged tone that you’d expect from such subject matter. Bronson’s evocative piano and Jesse Brewster’s chunky guitar riffs give it a warm, mid-tempo groove.
It’s on the last two songs wherein Bronson seals the deal on creating lifelong fans. The introspective “The Queen & the Clown” mirrors the metaphor-laden imagery of Don McLean and Simon & Garfunkel without the clunky poetry that many of their imitators have tortured us with. The closing “8th & Harrison” is a midnight bar ballad that Tom Waits could have sung. For an EP, Bronson has produced an album’s worth of emotional power, and the music continues to linger hours later.
Gentry Bronson: www.gentrybronson.com