Brother Dege – Farmer’s Almanac | Album Review

Brother Dege – Farmer’s Almanac

Self-Produced/Dege Legg Music Publishing

CD: 11 Songs, 41:59 Minutes

Styles: Country Blues, Swamp Blues, Acoustic Blues, All Original Songs

The first thing one sees when one looks at the cover art of Farmer’s Almanac, by Brother Dege Legg, is a scarecrow. Not the straw-stuffed, cheerful one that Old MacDonald might have used, but a specter made of sticks. Its shredded coat, warped black hat, and gnarled-branch fingers bear witness at sunset to a land that’s seen better days. So does Dege, a Southern singer/songwriter whose talents were Grammy-nominated for Django Unchained. Sounding like a young, unpolished Tom Petty, his every note is raw and full of passion: the kind that means suffering as well as intense love. If a Crime and Punishment adaptation had been set in present-day America, in the Deep South, several songs on Almanac would have been on the soundtrack – with Dege singing in the role of the axe-murderer protagonist. The CD’s only flaw is that its first half, five of eleven original songs, is clearly better than the second half, which verges on the esoteric.

According to his promo info, Brother D.’s worked a series of odd jobs (dishwasher, day laborer, cabdriver, homeless-shelter employee, and a stint as an embedded journalist). He nearly dove into the Mississippi to find his final answers – and fate – there, but had an instant change of heart once he realized what lay at stake. Despite his lack of money and plethora of demons, including drugs, he drove himself to rehab in a stolen Camaro and rededicated his life to his cause: music.

Performing along with Brother Dege (on lead vocals, various guitars and percussion) are the Brethren: Kent Beatty and Michael Juan Nunez on bass; Greg Travasos, Doug Belote, Eric Heigle, and Hawley Joe Gary on drums; Josh Leblanc on flugelhorn, and Laura Huval on background vocals for track three.

Of the selections on the album, which four* reveal the most? These:

Tracks 01 and 11*: “Partial to the Bitters, Parts I and II” – You know how an ace is worth either one point or eleven, depending on which card game you’re playing? So it is with this CD’s opener and closer. Are they too short or just right? Appetizing or not filling enough? Your call.

Track 02: “Country Come to Town” – As any farmer knows, country people work hard – but some folks don’t care one way or the other. “Ain’t it a pity when your rooster crows at the top of the day, lays a whip down to your bones? Either way, here I come, from the smallest town on the lowest rung.” Legg plays superior slide guitar here, and the stomping beat will make crowds go gaga whether they’re at home or in an outdoor throng.

Track 05: “Bastard’s Blues” – Talk about haunting; track five will chill one’s very marrow. With an intro that could’ve come straight out of Stephen King’s The Stand miniseries, this is the tale of a condemned man. Experiment: Flip the CD cover over for a second. This song’s title is listed above the symbol for Virgo, but it should have been bound to Libra: the Scales (of Justice). It possesses a perfect three-part balance of guitar, vocals and percussion by all the drummers listed above. The best part, however: is these lyrics: “One step to the holy chair. Down the hall to the guard and stair. Tie him up and I’m on the tier. In and out the door, yeah.”

“I shall be reborn to something better,” Dostoevsky said. Brother Dege, thankfully, found his way home to compose a spectacular Farmer’s Almanac!

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