Album Review – FIRE ON THE VINE – Bryan John Appleby

Sample “The Rider, The Horse, The Land” from FIRE ON THE VINE by Bryan John Appleby

Dear Music Appreciators,

This full length debut by Seattle’s Bryan John Appleby is just one more reason for outsiders to believe that the Pacific Northwest really is the indie beard rock capital of the twenty-first century. Fleet Foxes, Blitzen Trapper, The Head and the Heart – the list goes on, and fortunately by continuing to release creative and distinctive music these groups avoid being a bunch of bearded clichés. With FIRE ON THE VINE BJ Appleby is no exception.

This is an album that weaves biblical imagery with tortured tales of God and family and the open road that stretches ever onward regardless. Lest that road appear too dark and dreary, Appleby does let the light in a bit with more hopeful, upbeat sounding tracks like “The Rider, The Horse, The Land” and “Glory” – the former seeming destined to become a toe-tapping, crowd-pleasing favorite with its horn charts and catchy, repetitious lyrics.

Listen to the dynamics on a track like the seven minute story song “Boys,” which grabs the listener’s attention (at the 2:50 mark) with a transition from quiet acoustic finger picking, glockenspiel, and piano to floor pounding urgency as the narrator works himself up to a confrontation at the judgment bar of “God.”

Notice the poetic details that cast mental pictures into the mind of the listener on a track like “Honey Jars:”

Now your honey jars are frozen / In the window your books have browned / And there’s too much room inside our bed / I think I’ll join you in the ground.

It seems appropriate that the opening song and its theme of destruction features a wordless refrain of “Whoas” compared to the “Ahhs” of the album closer and it’s theme of resignation and acceptance. In between the singer takes us on a journey, tells us stories, and leaves us ready and willing to follow him down “The Road” and whatever it may bring.

Overall this is an autumnal, poetic collection of songs that feel at once both personal and character driven, and in addition to the aforementioned groups, it should find many listeners amongst the fan bases of other likeminded NW artists such as Blind Pilot, Damien Jurado, David Bazan, and Dolorean.


Constant Listener

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