Garrett Bryan has surely done his share of waiting. The Dallas based artist, who spent his early years playing with the group Callahan Divide, found his own voice with his first record Break the Levee and continues to expand his range with his newest effort Take Shape.
Take Shape as a whole is a record of growth and change, neither of which are bad things. With his band under a new name, The Traveling City Committee, Bryan chipped away at a batch of songs until he had the perfect mix. After establishing the bookends of the record (Tunnels and Lavenders in France) Bryan filled in the cracks with choice writing, “Once there’s a beginning and an end, what can we do to reach the other checkpoints and find the bridge between them”, Bryan told me over a brief phone call. The record sees Bryan struggle, process, and discuss things that are becoming more and more common for people in their mid-early 20’s all packed into 3-minute songs with ear-worm acoustic riffs, creative rhythm playing, and hair raising harmonies.
The record itself feels like a two-act play. Through the first five songs, there is no break, taking a piece out of the Tyler Childers/Sturgill Simpson playbook, giving the album a lineage to it that seems like it's meant to be listened to in one sitting. The album starts with ‘Tunnel’, a song that deals with the things you can learn from a love gone south and how to move forward. Without missing a beat, the chopping riff of ‘Capability’ swiftly marches in from the perspective of a lover who is simply trying to do their best. Then comes the true jewel of the album, ‘Slater’, a melancholy and sorrowful song about losing a childhood friend to suicide. Of all the songs on the record, ‘Slater’ is the one that Bryan says he feels the biggest emotional connection to and for good reason. The song walks you through the life of a young man, who goes from striking out batters on the baseball diamond as a kid to striking himself out later in life. For Bryan, ‘Slater’ is the one song he still needs, “With other things about relationships and stuff, I can write about and mourn whatever that relationship is and figure out what mine or other people's faults are. But when your young friend kills himself, there's really not a lot you can do about it moving forward”. The first act ends with my favorite transition of the album with ‘Blood & Silk’ and ‘Robin’. ‘Blood & Silk’, a song inspired by the life of Mary Magdalene and more importantly beautiful beginnings, moving immediately into ‘Robin’ using a bass line that turns from background to melody. ‘Robin’ finishes the first act beautifully, darkly grooving with a bass melody that's supported by only the kit and open lively chords. In the lyrics we find a Robin on a window seal that works as a spiritual guide through our depression and leaves us with several lessons with the lines “Calling yourself lazy doesn't mean you’re not depressed/ all emotion fluttering it can't be repressed” and my favorite line of the entire album “Scars will never break you/ only help take shape”.
For the rest of Take Shape Bryan continues his lyrical tear through the emotional spectrum. ‘Easily’, with my second favorite line “heartstrings bend/ most things don't / you pretend so easily” helps to set the tone of the ‘B’ side. Along with it, we get songs about addiction (Withdrawals), Abuse (Mary Anne), and the album ends with “Lavender in France”. Ending the record on a change of pace, “Lavender in France” gently sweeps through the emotions of a new relationship. The song ties together the end of the album almost perfectly and after going through so many different emotions acts as a light at the end of a tunnel. It’s easy to find yourself listening through this album again and again working like a circle that is never-ending. From the ending, you find the beginning, and this is truly only the beginning for Garett Bryan and the Traveling City Committee.
Take Shape is streaming now on all platforms. For more info on Garrett Bryan and the Traveling Committee head to garrettbryanmusic.com
Written By Jack Marion from The Pearl Snap Prophets