Adam Brand’s latest album, My Acoustic Diary, is a collection of fifteen songs, thirteen of which are rerecorded versions of tunes that represent his ‘growth as a songwriter and as an artist trying to find [his] own voice’. The other two tracks are brand new, consisting of the album’s lead single Freedom Rebels and a laid-back tune of longing called Gone Fishin’.
To say that most tracks on My Acoustic Diary are simply rerecorded versions of the old stuff is an oversimplification. Instead, the tunes have been redone acoustically, or in a broken down form at least, giving them new life and new character. However, these are the songs the way they were when ‘they were first written’, according to Brand. The acoustic format, I believe, can give music a certain timeless quality; it is often the studio production methods and effects applied to a track that situate it in a certain decade or movement, whereas the natural sound of an instrument, almost unaffected by electronic influences (though such influences are inherent in the recording process), will allow the song to speak for itself.
My Acoustic Diary, then, tests the true strength of Brand’s songwriting, and I think the result is a success. I’ll take the first of the ‘rerecorded’ tracks, Dirt Track Cowboys, as an example. The original 1998 version rumbles along with a bouncy ‘90s country-rock vibe, a vibe that I would personally steer clear of in general as a listener (I should note here that I am not particularly well-versed in Brand’s past output). However, the broken down track that features on the new album, with its rootsier, slide guitar-driven feel, takes a much stronger grip on my ears. And yeah, it’s a matter of personal taste of course, but I’m sure I’m not the only person who finds the textural elements a barrier to enjoying much modern country music, and if My Acoustic Diary broadens Brand’s appeal, then it is certainly a success in at least one sense.
I’m not trying to suggest though that these updated versions simply ‘fix’ what someone such as myself might have disliked about Brand’s previous work. Instead, the tunes are simply different, and perhaps in certain cases more universal. Good Things In Life, for example, is in its original year 2000 form, is a piece of really nice, authentic country melody-writing. On My Acoustic Diary the tune’s cruisy driving feel is discarded in favour of a more stationary, but still easy-going, tone formed around the gentle rhythmic strumming of a mandolin. A number of tracks on the record are modified in similar ways.
Whilst fans invariably have differing opinions when it comes to the rerelease of tunes from their favourite artists, I don’t think there will be too much controversy over My Acoustic Diary. Unlike an artist such as Bob Dylan, who is known for playing his songs differently to the point that they’re unrecognisable at many of his gigs, Adam Brand has remained faithful to his work, and loyal to his listeners, presenting versions that are just as, if not more, appealing than the originals.