Local singer/guitarist Brian Chartrand has his fingers in lots of stuff — he plays in local jam band Ten Dollar Outfit, and he's also a member of Phoenix group RGB. But more than anything, Chartrand has his fingers in heavy-handed acoustic guitar plucking, especially on his solo EP, Sleeping With Giants. Listeners may be reminded of Nick Drake's deep plucking style by the opening track, "Sweetly, Gently," wherein listeners can actually hear Chartrand's hands sliding across the strings in chord changes. Vocally, Chartrand sounds like a cross between Dave Matthews and Radiohead's Thom Yorke, and his folky, winsome tenor blends nicely with the pastoral-sounding string solo and flute float-out that ends the song. It's quite a pretty little ditty. Other songs, like "Smiling Strangers," are a bit darker — this one's a folk dirge about the melancholy of forgetting, complete with icy keyboards and a distant guitar solo that sounds like it's trudging across a vast stretch of desert to pass out at our feet. Two of the cover songs stand out because they're unlikely choices for a folk-rock makeover — Mary J. Blige's "Ex-Factor" and Justin Timberlake's "Cry Me a River." Chartrand turns the former song into a groovalicious, Jack Johnson-ish tune, and what it lacks in soul it more than makes up for in earnest novelty, as we are reminded how awesome it is that Blige used the word "reciprocity" multiple times in the lyrics. The cover of "Cry Me a River" has some fresh swagger (thanks again to that hard gee-tar plucking), but often sounds so straightforward and raw that it could pass for an old demo version of the song. It'll be interesting to hear more of Chartrand's solo material in this acoustic, lightly orchestrated format, rather than all the covers.
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