It seems that within the heart and soul of many successful band members, there always lies that
powerful question of, “What if?” Most specifically, “What if I were to try and do this on my own?’ And, for years, band members have been stepping out of the shadows of their comfort zones and have tried to forge ahead with their personal visions. In some cases it’s been wildly successful while others have unfortunately met with far less success.
Rising artist, Brian Larney, knows all too well those introspective longings and questions. A longtime member and collaborator within local Northeast bands, Larney has long felt the urge to venture out solo, seeing if his particular brand of pop-rock could stand on its own.
“It’s a triumph of the spirit,” the Bridgeport, Connecticut artist says laughing playfully. “I always hid within bands so everything about this is like starting over, hence the title, At The Starting Line.”
The product of a longtime musical education, Larney spent his early years honing his songwriting and focusing on the “art of harmonizing.”
“I would get to school at 6:00 AM and go into the piano practice room and pick out songs and work on harmonies,” he says.
And while his initial efforts resulted in over the top, “overly complicated 7-minute opuses,” Larney eventually found his way, merging his personal tastes as a listener, which encompass everything from pop to bluegrass and everything in between, together with his work as a traveling musician where he worked with bands playing everything from pop-punk, power pop, post-punk, and hardcore. Through all of those experiences, Larney found the strength and the skill to step out of the shadows and being casting one of his own.
And with the early verdicts coming in, Larney has nothing to worry about.
Larney’s number one coup was in snagging Americana songwriter, David Mayfield, to produce, the singer/songwriter lending a refreshing tone to Larney’s work. But, while Mayfield’s production keeps things clean and clear, it’s Larney and his compelling songs that are the star here and they don’t disappoint.
Fueled by Larney’s humble yet smooth vocals and an eclectic sense of composition that fuses soulful harmonies, tasty indie pop-laden hooks, and elements of country and Americana together in a highly listenable gumbo of sound. There are elements of bands like Wilco and others to be found but, through and through, this record resounds with Larney’s own signature.
That signature is most notably heard on the album’s highlight track, “Why God Why,” which finds the artist dealing with the loss of his father. It’s a simple arrangement, surprisingly mid-tempoed and driven ahead by subtle percussive notes as Larney sings, “Wake up, Dad, I need you now/Is this the place you were laid down/And why are you still sleeping?/And I ask/Why, God, why?” It’s powerful, haunting, and lovely all within it’s two and a half minutes and captivates the listener.
Not afraid to tackle other heady topics, the artist wrestles with religion on the bluesy “Dogma (On a Leash),” calling out his take on swarthy preachers who repeatedly speak with “forked tongue” and coax parishioners into giving money that they use to line their own pockets. Soulful pockets of both acoustic and electric guitar bolster the track, lending it a vital, swampy note.
“Whistling Past the Graveyard” is a track that makes great use of the artist’s pop leanings, featuring great harmonies, killer keyboard chops, and a toe-tapping arrangement, making it another favorite. Ditto that for album opener, “You, Me, and Alison” which captures an expansive Americana vibe, perfect for long summer road trips, and harnesses the great line, “Jesus in your tears.” Flipping the tables, “Solace” slows things down with a lyrical journey that explores spiritual oppression with stringent honesty, offering up the thought that, “There ain’t no difference if you’re good on the outside/Still got your demons locked up inside your heart.”
Merging genres and writing honest, poetic, insightful lyrics that speak to the heart and doing so while providing a great hook, Brian Larney’s At the Starting Line is a masterful work. And while Larney may have been content to rest in the shadows for some time, he’s going to have to get adjusted to the spotlights because if he keeps making music like this, they’re going to be shining on him for a long, long time.