FRESH TRACKS: Brett Kissel pays tribute to classic country on West Album

This is the third release of four that comprise The Compass Project

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Brett Kissel: The Compass Project – West Album

The last time we checked in with Alberta’s Brett Kissel he had released the first installment of his ambitious, four-album project, The Compass Project. Now, the country music artist is nearing the homestretch, having released the third album, West, on Nov. 3.

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Whereas South Album had a contemporary country feel and East Album saw Kissel chasing a coastal vibe, West Album is a straight-forward, traditional country record. Drum loops and boy-band harmonies have been replaced with honky-tonk guitars and good ol’ boy singing. Presented as a mix of originals and covers, the 11-track album hews close to that classic, blue-collar country music that sounds heavenly coming from an AM radio station.

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Album single Deer Blind tells the tale of a father taking his son on a hunting trip. In a press release, Kissel explains “Deer Blind’ is less a song about hunting than it is about lifelong memories and bonds that are forged by passing on a tradition from one generation to the next. The line ‘there ain’t nothin’ better than sittin’ with my boy in a deer blind’ was casually spoken to me by my good buddy Mike Fisher, who explained just how special it was to sit with his son and help him get his first deer. I knew I had to turn that into a country song.” Deer Blind is the type of down-to-earth family-bonding song country music fans adore.

Oil and Cattle, a staunchly pro-Alberta song, also features George Canyon, Don Amero and Brad Johner elucidating the hard-working ethos baked into this province. The theme is carried over to track Legacy, which has Kissel trying something a bit different with a spoken-work delivery, spinning the ups and downs of a man’s life over atmospheric guitars. Continuing the traditional country music theme, Strait Country has Kissel paying tribute to his heroes his father, grandfather and the legendary George Strait.

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The album’s cover songs are great selections and for the most part Kissell does a serviceable job performing these classics. Wichita Lineman is drenched in strings, a nod to Glen Campbell’s defining take on the song, but Kissell’s vocals don’t hit the same heights. Ditto on Behind Closed Doors, which smooths out the peaks and valleys of Charlie Rich’s rendition in favour of the homogenized sound of contemporary country music.

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Brett Kissel has released the third album of his Compass Project, The West Album. Photo by supplied

West Album is the kind of album you can listen to with your grandparents, a selling point bolstered by the inclusion of The Crib Song, which is about — you guessed it — the classic card game. “Now I can’t think of anything I love doing more than this/ Than drinking whisky with the boys, and kickin’ ass at crib”: it certainly sounds like Kissell has penned the ultimate cribbage song.

Listen to West Album on all major streaming services. Kissell is currently on tour and will be performing in our neck of the woods at the River Cree Resort and Casino for a New Year’s Eve concert.

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