10 tracks / 40:35
Formerly of Liverpool, Mike Brookfield is a Dublin-based musician and guitar teacher with a pedigree, as he has earned a jazz musician of the year award, as well as being able to include plenty of West End musical theater experience and session work on his CV. Of course, as he is a British-based blues rocker, there are going to be the inevitable comparisons to Clapton, Knopfler, Gilmour, and Gallagher, and he can actually hold his own against these guys on the fretboard. Mike is a fine guitarist and nobody would dispute this fact if they ever heard him play, and fortunately he is mature enough that he does not have to constantly prove himself.
With this level of talent Brookfield can afford to hold back and let the songs do the work, which makes his new album, Love Breaks the Fall, a winner. Besides playing the guitar and singing, he wrote all ten songs for this project and acted as producer, so most of the credit goes to him. The rest of the kudos go out to the musicians he brought into the studio to assemble the tracks, including Keith Duffy on bass, Jason Duffy on drums, and Cian Boylan on the keys.
Mike chose to put Love Breaks the Fall’s strongest song up front, which was a wise move as this will make a strong impression on DJs and reviewers, and will certainly get them to listen to more of his debut album. This title track starts out with an acoustic intro, and builds throughout into a heavy blues-rock anthem. The Duffys do not get too fancy on the backline but keep a strong groove as Boylan sets the mood with his Hammond. As the rest of the album unfolds you will find that it is all about the mood, and this is an introspective project that draws on many emotions.
Up next is “Catfish Missile,” a slice of countrified Americana that features Brookfields’s wife, Grainne on backing vocals. This lady sings sweet harmonies that are a fine counterpoint to Mike’s pleasant tenor, and he uses an acoustic guitar to provide a foundation for some mighty fine electric leads. This is a marked contrast with the hard-rocker “The Killing Line,” which provides a shot of adrenaline with its funky wah-soaked guitars and glamorous 1970s-style organ work.
“Bare Witness” is the first of two instrumentals, and it is loaded up with Texas blues-rock guitars and hard-hitting drums and bass. Mike lays down some fiery leads and puts together cool doubled lines with the keys when he is not soloing like a madman. Coming in at a little under three minutes, this song definitely leaves the listener wanting just a little more.
Brookfield is well versed in American music, which is not too surprising for a man who has played the role of Eddie Cochran on stage. This is evident on “All My Heroes Are Junkies,” and after a Stevie Ray intro he mixes a bit of rockabilly into a tune that has a few similarities to Cochran’s “Summertime Blues.” The effect is light-hearted and the lyrics are humorous at times, but this mood is tempered when you consider what the song is really about.
After nine songs that are full of mature songwriting with strong melodies and lyrics, Mike finishes up the album with its other instrumental, “Peace for Joe,” a laid-back tribute to one of his old friends who is no longer with us. Brookfield plays a lovely melody with a wonderful touch and his tone is amazing. It is a great song, a fitting memorial, and the perfect way to bring things to a close.
Mike Brookfield avoided the usual traps that most guitar virtuosos fall into when they start recording their own material, and Love Breaks the Fall is a solid album that is very enjoyable to listen to. Check out his website if you are interested in picking up a copy, and make sure you look over his schedule if you are going to be on his side of the Atlantic, as there are a few shows coming up on his calendar.