Wesley Dean Australia For Nashville On Radio & Hook Friendly ‘Unknown’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

photo byAnthony Scarlati

Few would have the courage to do what Wesley Dean did. Dean (AKA Wes Car) was riding high on the Australian music charts with two hits singles and performing on the country’s biggest stages after winning Australian Idol. Rather bask in that success, Dean instead ratcheted up his confidence level along with huge bursts of faith and courage to abandon his home country to pursue his musical dreams in Music City. Thus, the title Unknown for his blend of roots music, country, and rock n’ roll. 

This bold move took shape in two phases, first moving from Adelaide to a small sea shantytown on the Sunshine Coast after first taking a break from music.  When his wife and two young boys left on a ten-day vacation, he found solace, the return of the songwriting music, and a highly productive period in which he penned twenty songs, at least two of which appear on this album. So, there are fourteen songs here, written in both countries, and probably a couple even on the trans-Pacific flight.

The album tells the autobiographical tale beginning with the Jayhawks-like jangling guitars and soaring chorus “Leave Adelaide Alone” and closing with the heartfelt piano ballad title track. “Never Thought Of You,” the melodic second track, immediately reveals Dean’s pensive side but he quickly returns to rocking in “Gaslighter,” the single, about trust earned the hard way. “Forty thousand feet above the ground/Feels like only Heaven can help me now
When I need the fire/You’re the gaslighter/And when the whole world gets me down/Honey, you get me through the clouds/When I need the fire/You’re the gaslighter/Alright.”
More than anything, it’s a tribute to his wife but universally he’s saying even those who have mustered courage need a support system and faith to keep going.

A couple of the songs he wrote during that creative burst on the Sunshine Coast appear in the second half of the album. “Never Goin’ Back to the Darkside,” could have multiple meanings in terms of leaving his days of anxiety and depression behind or no desire to return to the commercial side of the music biz. “Where Only You and I Remain,” though directly addresses the big risk. With the decision made, there was little choice but to keep forging ahead during these pandemic times because the Australian borders remained closed, meaning he couldn’t return home even if he’d wanted to. 

The live track “Eleven One” finds Dean alone strumming an acoustic and singing with immense passion about self-identity. Here’s one of the verses – “I’ve been hiding trying to find who I am for a long time now/And I still don’t know, no I still don’t know/But if you’re feeling like the real you is buried way deep down/You’re not alone, no you’re not alone”. There’s the Petty-like “Hello, I Love You, Goodbye,” perhaps the best expression of the album’s theme of greetings and farewells, fleshed out with some of the collaborators he’d met during his first trip to Tennessee, including engineer Justin Cortelyou, and with new friends like co-writer Fred Wilhelm. Together, the musicians layered piano-driven tracks like the reassuring “That’s Why I’m Here” with organ and light percussion.  The closing title track is also a piano ballad, starker in terms of instrumentation as he ruminates on those he’s left behind, expressing fond memories of their days on the Sunshine Coast. The sound effects of his boy and the airplane at the end are unnecessary but harmless. 

Dean captures a slew of emotions along the way, from regrets to big risks to the excitement of so many new opportunities. His vocal talents are unquestionable. His songs are sincere. He still has big choices ahead because his knack for radio-friendly songs could easily make him a major star again or he could settle into less glamorous singer-songwriter mode. He bears watching. 

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