Sarana VerLin & Billy Brandt
ARE YOU LISTENING?
An Alt-Country/Alt. Folk Soundtrack to the Third Summer of Love.
As they say in their Press Release “This pairing shouldn’t work……but it does.”
Born and raised in Detroit, Sarana was a child prodigy Classical violinist who discovered Rock Music in her late teens and Billy was the Merch guy for .38 Special who wrote his own acoustic songs while travelling the world in the bands’ truck then singing them to and with the backing singers in Motel bedrooms; before giving that life up to move back to Detroit where he became a ‘go to’ guy for local and visiting bands.
How they got together is shrouded in mystery; but I’m mighty glad this odd couple did.
Never trusting Press Releases I let the music do the talking and got a very pleasant surprise with the opening track Ophelia (I Walked Away) as Sarana’s warm and clear vocals take centre stage on a Folk Rocker that owes more to British bands like Fairport Convention and River City People than any of the American Alt. Bands I expected to hear; yet Brandt’s distinctive guitar playing is Alt. Country through and through.
That slinky low slung guitar weaves its way through the cinematic second song Judgement Day; and this time it’s Brandt who takes lead vocals and memories of not just Buffalo Springfield but Whiskeytown instantly sprang to mind; although the duo actually sound nothing like either.
The couple more or less take turns throughout on lead, with the other proving the perfect foil on harmonies with Sailing Away (Port 1 & 2) featuring some very fine guitar playing, that Tom Petty would have been proud to produce and on I Wish I Knew the guitarist goes acoustic as Sarana delicately delivers a beautiful love song. that will break your heart.
The oddest thing here is actually Sarana’s violin playing which is majestically understated throughout; but on No Such Thing as Goodbye and Everything’s Falling when it seamlessly glides in you know you are in the company of an expert player; yet neither she nor Billy ever allow their dextrous playing to overshadow the power and intensity of their songs and stories.
The title track Are You Listening? closes the album and the couple’s unusual musical influences all come together on an almost Psychedelic Alt. Folk song that conjures up images of Sarana in a floaty dress dancing around candles as Brandt transcends himself into Richard Thompson-George Harrison hybrid.
My favourite track here is another left field Alt. Something mixture, with Sarana again taking lead on the multi-layered Ghost of My Love; another delightful Folk-Rocker Deluxe that has me tapping my toes again, as I type these words and just may be the Soundtrack to the Third Summer of Love.
Released March 23rd 2018