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On their recent album, Daniel the Brave, Boston-based rockers the Adam Ezra Group enter relatively unknown territory. Or, as the group puts it in the album’s liner notes, “Most of the tracks [on the album] are recorded live. Some are first takes. Some involve sounds we’ve never used on an album before.”
The result of this three year-long experimentation is Daniel the Brave – an all acoustic album featuring the Adam Ezra Group at their most stripped down and unplugged. Written and recorded during periods of down time in the band’s touring schedule, Daniel the Brave includes eleven brand new acoustic tracks, as well as a stripped down version of “OK, By You,” a hit off of the band’s previous record 2011’s Ragtop Angel.
Although Daniel the Brave is an intended departure from the award-winning sound of Ragtop Angel, the album still maintains all of the charm that avid Adam Ezra Group fans first fell in love with on earlier indie-releases. In fact, Daniel the Brave perhaps showcases some of the group’s strongest qualities better than any previous album. The naked nature of the album serves to highlight lead singer Adam Ezra’s versatility as a vocalist as well as the group’s natural aptitude for fresh and engaging songwriting, both lyrically and melodically.
As a record, Daniel the Brave also elucidates the impact that some of the Adam Ezra Group’s musical influences have had on their music. Different shades of Bob Dylan are hinted at on both the relaxed, folk-tinged album opener, “Ease It Down Right,” as well the hauntingly solemn closing track, “Thought Design.” The soft, vulnerable plea of “Rescue” is reminiscent of Simon & Garfunkel while “What I Got” humbly chugs along like the work of Robbie Robertson and The Band.
“When they come, I’ll be ready to give it a shot,” sings an appreciative Ezra over a gentle folk-like accompaniment. “Because I’m lucky to have what I got.”
The influence of vintage rock legends is noticeable throughout Daniel the Brave; however, comparisons can also be made between the Adam Ezra Group and more contemporary acts. On the self-deprecating and apologetic “Desperate Plea,” Ezra proves that he can be just as good of an alt-rock crooner as Mikel Jollet of The Airborne Toxic Event. Ezra also capture the seamless blend of marvel and grit in his vocals on the title track “The Portentous Beginnings of Daniel the Brave” that Brian Fallon has found success with in The Gaslight Anthem.
The Adam Ezra Group certainly has plenty of indie credibility, and if some of the tracks on Daniel the Brave are any indicator, Ezra and the guys are also poised with a great deal of mainstream potential. “Drive” is a sunny, upbeat anthem for the road in the vein of nineties pop-rock artists like the Goo Goo Dolls whereas “3 Days” shines with the energetic fun of a Barenaked Ladies concert.
“It’s three days until we roll on the weekend,” Ezra smiles on the track over the jamboree of his bandmates’ instruments. “Three days ‘til I coast like a demon.”
Despite being labeled as an acoustic album, Daniel the Brave shows a great deal of versatility and variety. Where other artists may become suffocated by the concept of an acoustic album, the Adam Ezra Group thrives in it, exploring a diverse collection of sounds, from the cheery summer warmth of “Drive” and “3 Days” to the quiet lament of tracks like “Rescue” and “Thought Design.” One can only hope that the members of the Adam Ezra Group will take some of what they learned from Daniel the Brave and incorporate it into their next album when they inevitably return to the electric guitars and crashing cymbals.
In the liner notes of the record, the Adam Ezra Group writes that Daniel the Brave “expresses a side of us that we don’t always get to share.” As the album title may imply, courage and bravery are needed when embarking on musical experiments and opening up to audiences in a different way. It is certainly risky, but it is a risk necessary for musicians to take in order to grow as artists. With Daniel the Brave, the Adam Ezra Group has proven that they have both the natural skill and bravery to produce truly great music, making them an important band for music fans to keep an eye on for the future.