Album Review: Brent Best – ‘Your Dog, Champ’


In a lengthy letter to his fans, Brent Best explains why it took him five years to complete his solo album. He reflects on the hard times and real life shit that led to his project, as well as others, being moved to the backburner. He recounts too many different circumstances to talk about in this review, but in listening to his new record Your Dog, Champ there is one striking takeaway: it was worth the wait.

Brent Best Cover Art

Not exactly a household name, Brent Best is best known as the frontman of gloriously rowdy and criminally underrated Texas country-rockers Slobberbone. After about twenty years together, the band called it quits in 2004 but never really meant it, as they have continued to play shows and release albums. On his solo album, Best taps into something deeper and more personal than the beer-soaked rock and roll bliss of Slobberbone and his other band The DramsChamp finds Best taking on the role of storyteller, a skill he clearly has the knack for based on the praise he has received from the likes of James McMurtry, Will Johnson of Centro-matic, and the Drive-By Truckers’ Patterson Hood. Best can hold his own alongside those titans of songwriting.

Across the eleven songs on the album, he clings to the Southern Gothic tradition, adding his own dusty Texas twang to songs that focus on rugged characters and the misfortunes that come with a life lived hard. Family plays a lead role, as opening song “Daddy Was A Liar” contrasts uplifting vocals and piano with lyrics about a deadbeat dad, only to be followed up by “Good Man Now”, a sweeping, steel guitar-tinged song about murdering dad by literally nailing him to the bed. Throughout the album, Best manages to juxtapose his tales of murder and misdoing with a soundtrack of rich, grandiose instrumentals that seem to offer a sort of musical redemption to the rough stories being told. In the literary tradition of novelists like Larry Brown and Cormac McCarthy, Best manages to bring a very human element to even the most tragic, unforgivable characters. But Champ is not all doom and gloom; more tender fare comes on the rambling, fiddle-driven “You Shouldn’t Worry”, “Queen Bee”, and the worldly love song “It Is You”, the latter of which closes the album and features some of its finest guitar picking and harmonica playing. The album and its characters jump back and forth between life’s most brutal moments to snapshots of pure happiness.

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Brent Best is an artist who will find fans in those that love acts like the Drive-By Truckers and Lucero, and also in anyone who appreciates a strong storyteller unafraid to write about the dark realities that plague rural life across America. Make no mistake about it, much of these songs are grim as hell. Yet, they are not filled with the kind of complete and utter hopelessness that could make this album a total downer. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and always a chance to make things right. If Slobberbone is a band to knock back shots and beers with the boys to, then Brent Best’s solo album is for sitting back with whiskey on ice and soaking in the nuances of a life lived. Here’s to hoping it doesn’t take another five years for Best to give us another solo album.

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