Phillip Bracken is an Australian artist based in Poland. This is his debut album, and a remarkably assured one at that.
He is backed by what are obviously top notch musicians. The between a rock and a hard place album title is from a Chinese proverb that serves as a reminder to "fear everything lest we achieve nothing". The title track taps into this call for proactive solutions asking "What the hell are you waiting for?"
The content of this record is relatively conventional but its strength lies in the range of styles that tap freely into blues, soul, folk and jazz. The banjo is a prominent instrument throughout but is used more to create an ambient mood than to invoke bluegrass traditions. This is used to best effect in The Prophet.
The opening track is the pulsating Push Me that pulls the listener immediately into a cool funky groove enhanced by the contribution of guest saxophonist Jacek Mielcarek.
This song also introduces us to Bracken's silkily soulful vocals. Critics have compared him to Ben Harper and the similarities are that both artists sound unhurried and relaxed while also being thoroughly engaged and engaging performers. The slow burn of Wake Up, for example, is languid yet is never soporific.
Tricks In My Eyes is livelier and the closing number, Black Mama, ends with a powerful crescendo. It is as if Bracken is giving notice that there's much more where this came from.
Let's hope so, because this is a fine album that glides along smoothly with moments of zen-like calm juxtaposed with rousing, upbeat jams.
Phillip Bracken's website