A rude awakening always comes before the spiritual awakening, even for musical mystic decker. Brandon Decker has toured ceaselessly for nearly ten years since the release of his debut in 2009, with multiple albums dropped along the way. Born to Wake Up is a transcendent soundscape from a man who listeners only thought they knew. Reborn, a better man has emerged from the ashes. His sound has evolved along with his spirit.
Signed to the prestigious Royal Potato Family record label, Brandon Decker has brought his Sedona, Arizona, psychedelic folk to life. Adding to the ambient surreal aura is cover art from Brandon Paul Shupe Art. The stunning artwork blends desert psychedelia and possibly some pea soup aesthetic into the blender of creativity. Quinn Murphy at Hamster Labs in Phoenix, Arizona helped make the artwork and layout come to life. This album, produced by Brandon Decker & Dylan Ludwig and recorded at Raven Sound Studio in Prescott, Arizona, has an added essence infused by final mastering from Dan Coutant (Caterpillars, Sherwood, among a host of others) at Sun Room Audio in Cornwall, New York.
The first sounds of “No Beginning No End” opens the ten-song album with an expansive echo of brilliance. Some facts are clear: like a desert night, each sound is magnified, every nuance vibrating with meaning. With Brandon Decker on guitars, vocals, and percussion joined by Dylan Ludwig on guitars, synthesizers, and percussion, a skeleton of a symphony has been created. Amber Johnson (keyboards), Andrew Bates (electric bass), Zirque Bonner (upright bass), Charlie Foldesh (drums), Shawnee Snaketail (drums), and Meliza Jackson (guitar) are the full orchestra of sound that helps create the rich lushness of this album.
Resting in the mystery is “The Strawman,” with an wide, cinematic feel; a hollow echo of lyrics create a haunting, soul-jarring connection to one of the most strikingly brilliant vocals ever felt by this troubadour.
“Burnin Grass” is a tribute to Tom Petty that was also the lead single from Born to Wake Up. It is a solid homage to the great songwriter in vibe and lyricism, with a splash of desert folk style. Shifting gears, “The Garden” has an eclectic cool with a bass line that rolls. The intimacy of the sound’s contradiction with the lyrics is genius. In the past, Brandon Decker has written more from the dark side, a perspective that dead ends in many ways. Hope is heard on this album, with love and light breaking through introducing life anew.
The driving groove of “The Matador” is animalistic, thanks to the abundance of percussion, and the primal feel reflects the fact that this man is connected to the land. Clearly, this an elevation of an already talented artist and that brilliance is heard lyrically. Bright vocally, this soars in triumph, an awareness that the truth is a freedom that cannot be given without sacrifice. The title track “Born to Wake Up” follows. With guitar work that feels like a loving hug, each lyric is a positive reinforcement to clear each speed bump in life, big or small, in order to become the best human being possible. Is this a new Decker, a little road weary and more introspective?
Sometimes the best new music connects a listener to memories of the past, great albums seared into the soul. “Smudge” has an aura of The Beatles with a vibe that brings to mind the psychedelic aesthetic of cuts from Revolver, Rubber Soul, and the White Album as do all of the closing songs. Written with his son, “Mexico” is simply beautiful and in many ways reminiscent of “Beautiful Boy” by John Lennon; simple, heartfelt love of father and son. Life is celebrated with breathtaking honesty. Adding to the magic is the voice of Katherine Byrnes; heart-stopping love seems to radiate from this cut unconsciously. Knowing that the songwriter and his son wrote this song is that much more powerful, knowing the bond the two share.
An evolution has occurred for Brandon Decker. Closing out the album with “The Saint” as a tribute to his grandmother, the man has certainly shifted his perspective. Now his ascension to another plane as a songwriter has begun, more open and authentic spiritually than on any of his previous seven releases. A bookend to close the album, “No End, No Beginning” harkens in the dawn, a chapter in the musical life of a man devoted to his son, his art, and his spirit.–Lisa Whealy