Inside the Horse's Head (Burnside Records)
By: Alex Steininger
Fronted by Brian Berg, 44 Long is Portland, Oregon's top roots-rock act. With a strong pop foundation, as well as arena rock and garage influences, Brian Berg leads the band through wonderfully delivered songs that will soothe your soul while putting a smile on your face.
"Noelle," the opening track, starts off with a slow, 70's rock guitar feel, while Brian's voice hints at 60's pop traditions. The song slithers along before the first hook is thrown out; its beauty quickly takes you as the song starts dishing out pop with warm feeling. From there, you're hooked and you can't put the song down. The verses build you up for something special, while the chorus delivers on everything you're expecting, plus more.
"Think You Should" is another high-flying, especially addictive number that glows like the sun. Right from the get go the blend of a bouncy rhythm section, smooth guitar licks, and warm vocals (not to mention the overall pop infectious the song has) grab ahold of you and spin around in your head like a disco ball. Not only is Brian Berg a master at writing clever pop hooks and sincere vocal arrangements for the songs, he also writes some great lyrics to fuse with the song: simply put, he handles and delivers the complete package.
And even on a number where there is not that many lyrics, like on "You Don't Have To Cry," where the main line that is repeated over and over is the song title, he still makes it work with dazzling pop hooks and sweet, sincere vocals. I usually only stick with the songs with great lyrics, but with Brian, and especially "You Don't Have To Cry," the song is so infectious you'll crawl back to it if you don't get your fix.
"Mine All Mine" touches on an emotional nerve in your body, especially with the use of a slide guitar that hides underneath the front of the song. Its shiny, smooth sound vibrates throughout the song and gives it a delicate charm that will warm up your body and quickly bring a tear to your eye with its tenderness.
The country feel of "Concussion Be Your Guide," led by Brian's voice and an acoustic guitar, stings with the same intensity that their rockers do, but the song's soft approach and heart-felt sound drives itself even quicker to your heart. Proving he's a versatile songwriter, and his band can handle whatever he throws their way, Brian makes an impact with this soft song; he's able to make it stick in your mind, and helps it stand out as one of the most powerful numbers on the disc.
Ending with "I'm So Happy to Have All My Gear Back," the band has some fun with an A Cappella number. Not as powerful or heart-felt as the other numbers found on the disc, but it is a nice reminder that proves all the members in the band have a voice and know how to use it.
One of the best roots-rock albums release as-of-late, INSIDE THE HORSE'S HEAD showcases the talents of singer/songwriter/guitarist Brian Berg. A hard working musician with musical depth, he's able to craft strong hooks around solid songs. I'll give this album an A+.