Listening to singer-songwriter Brian Dolzani’s new album If I Don’t Speak a Word, I am reminded of the famous Matthew Arnold description of Lord Byron’s poetry in his own “Stanzas from the Grande Chartreuse.” Byron’s writing, he says, bears “the pageant of his bleeding heart.” Keats, Shelley… Byron could bare his soul with the best of them. Of course when you’re looking for intimate personal struggle, you don’t have to go back to Byron. Modern songwriters haven’t been shy when it comes to laying their emotions on the line. And when it comes to intimate soul searching, Dolzani is following in big footsteps.
Dolzani describes the album as “very much a relationship record, the story of a ‘seeker’ coming to terms with where they are in life, what they have, what they want to be different; someone who is learning to find their strong voice and find themselves in relation to others, with the looming question of, ‘What might happen if I keep quiet?’ And the dissatisfied life that may result in.” In other words, get things off your chest and move on.
Now there’s nothing necessarily wrong with music as therapy, especially if the things the musician is dealing with are the issues we all have to deal with. And especially if he can make us feel that he is sincere about what he is saying. Most especially if he can make his individual bleeding heart pageant universal. Certainly dealing with relationships both good and bad is basic to the human condition and, if nothing else, Dolzani’s writing and performance exude sincerity. The best art conceals its artfulness and from the album’s opening song “Older Now” to its last “I’m Sorry Now,” Dolzani does the job with consummate skill. His lyrical honesty rarely gets lost in elaborate production. His songs come across as sincere personal confessions. Perhaps the most personal and one of the most effective songs on the album is “Hey Dad,” described as “a letter to a deceased father.” Dolzani’s father died when the singer was 15. It is both simple and moving. Check out the video.
Dolzani can also craft some surprisingly catchy melodies. While he seems to effectively clone Neil Young in the rocking “Whether or Not,” I suspect songs like “Sail This Sea,” “Before Goodnight,” and “Autumn in Central Park,” songs that deal directly with relationships, seem more honest. They are all three melodic gems that will stick with you. And come to think of it, so will “Whether or Not.”
For those of us unfamiliar with Dolzani’s work, If I Don’t Speak My Mind makes for an excellent introduction. It is well worth your time to make his acquaintance.