No one can accuse Brenda Carsey of adhering to one particular direction. Her latest single from her new album Cognizance, “Man of Mine”, breaks with the jagged edges of its raw predecessor “I’m Sorry”. This is Carsey as torch song chanteuse with lyrical piano accompanying her each step of the way. She counterpoints the keys with familiar yet idiosyncratic phrasing that accents specific points in the lyric that other singers may have ignored or glossed over. It helps bring her own narrative to life as the song progresses and the musical accompaniment strikes a perfect complementary note.
Kyle Crane’s drumming is another high point in the performance. He enhances the drama and exhilaration of the song without ever imposing his sound over the vocals or other instruments. Carsey plays the piano while handling the lead vocals without missing a beat on either side. Her production shows a keen understanding of how to best present her voice and the mix maintains an effective balance between her vocal prowess and the instrumentation. She wears a lot of hats as a recording artist without any apparent strain.
It’s an upbeat song of appreciation for a romantic partner without ever sinking into a saccharine cliché. It reminds, in some senses, of being the stylized flipside of Don Henley’s “The Heart of the Matter” in the way that Carsey successfully writes about adult romantic love and its positive effects with a mature point of view rather than layering it with a lot of trite and predictable platitudes. This is a songwriting voice cut from its own distinctive cloth.
Yet it is quite relatable. Carsey has written a song that anyone who has experienced the flush of love can appreciate and the language, thoughtful and economical, will be recognizable for anyone hearing the track. She has a natural aptitude for the jazz/soulful style she’s pursuing with “Man of Mine” and it sits well next to past examples of the form without ever sounding like a pastiche. We tend to hear these older styles as being self-consciously retro because we live in a culture enthusiastically banishing the past to cultural backwaters.
Brenda Carsey, however, finds continuing merit in the past and breathes new life into time-tested vehicles. “Man of Mine”, as different as it is on its surface, sits just fine alongside songs such as her previous single “I’m Sorry” and work from past albums. She has a confident curiosity that takes her wherever she likes while still retaining the core values that make her songwriting and performances stand out from the pack.
We can expect that to continue. Brenda Carsey’s new single “Man of Mine” from her pending album Cognizance, due to hit in early 2023, sets a bold course for the performer as she clearly prioritizes growth over maintaining the artistic status quo. She has a reliable cast of collaborators tuned into her ambitions and is more than skilled enough to reflect her goals. There’s little she cannot do, and her exploratory spirit suggests she will continue pressing toward the distant horizons in her sight.