Those who know the Old Man might have guessed this would be an album I would review (for the same reason I couldn’t pass on Gang of Youth’s Angel in Real Time). The Day My Father Died is a beautifully done album by Northwestern singer/songwriter Brian Fennell. The album is a bit of a confessional and in the title track, Fennell’s lyrics confess, “I want to show you that life comes in circles. I want to show you life.” The songs, despite the album’s title, primarily focused on love.
The opening track sets the mood for the album. “Howling” is undoubtedly sad. The lyrics contrast the cathartic nature of human touch and contrast death and healing. Fennell’s falsetto and Lucius’s background vocals layer the sadness. It’s a beautiful opening track.
The second track, “Believer,” plays off the opening track as Fennell pleads “Touch me like a lover” and adds “Speak to me like a friend. Teach me like my father taught me how to live again.” “Believer” is a track we’ve picked up on our playlist and encourage others to do the same. This is such a lovely tune.
“Sweet Home” has a more indie-folk sound, gives off a bit of a Simon & Garfunkel vibe, and is soaked in nostalgia. Fennell has spoken about the song and how it represents many elements of return, belonging, and nostalgia. But I can’t but help but read into the song a moment of getting ready for the inevitable. The lyrics, “Welcome home. Your last and only one. Never more to roam,” seem to nod in that direction.
“The Day My Father Died” is not a sad track. It’s a celebration of life. This is a folk knee-slapper. It’s about how we share each other’s burden, lift each other up, how we should live/celebrate each day, and be open to new possibilities. The track opens up the album to more diverse sounds for the remainder of the album.
“You and I,” the album’s 13th track, is a sweet simple folk tune. The lyrics are straight-ahead adoration. This is the catchiest tune on the album and certainly the song that is generating the most streams.
The hidden gem in this album is the last track, “Corduroy.” This war song is wonderfully melancholy. The subtle snare drums in the background brilliantly drive home the theme without getting in the way.
There are 15 tracks on this album. That seems like a lot. But there are gems throughout. The moment when Fennell breaks into a falsetto often is the moment when a song draws you in. The Day My Father Died is well written, well produced, and Fennell’s vocals are brilliant.