Saturday, I was sitting right in front of the stage at the Live Oak Music Hall in Fort Worth, and D. Anson Brody had just finished an incredibly powerful song. There was a slight pause, and a woman in the audience gasped: "Oh my god." Then came the applause.
She said what everyone else in the room was thinking.
Brody absolutely killed it, with just himself, Zuriel Bertch on violin and a massive collection of stringed instruments. There was what looked to be a Fender Jaguar, an eight-string baritone guitar, a harmony arch top, a Hammer bass, a solid body ukulele and a Taylor nine-string that had been completely smashed for artistic reasons -- oh, and his voice. During the slow, thoughtful moments, Brody has a normal-ish folk-singer voice. But when he gets worked up, the vocals become a kind of cross between Joe Cocker and a freight train. It's something that just evolved over years of trying to be heard above a band, but there is raw energy and savagery that comes through.
Brody's musicianship is first-rate as well, and when I heard him play, I thought of the Wooten Brothers -- that wonderful kind of percussive, melodic style of abusing a stringed instrument that blends funk and jazz. When he switched to bass, I thought of Victor Wooten specifically. It was no accident.
"I went to [Victor Wooten's] bass camp," said Brody, "and it was his camp that inspired me to do it full-time. Even if I'm living in my car, I was going to do it full time and make it work. Then I took that influence and brought it to a baritone guitar, and it really opened up and I found my own voice."
Brody writes his own lyrics, and although he could be singing about anything and make the crowd feel it, emotive storytelling seems to be his thing.
"Some stuff is stories -- things that I'll see or make up," Brody says. "Others, it's like a story told through emotion. Like Still Believe is about believing in your dreams, and that's an emotion but it's told through the story of struggling through it."
Bertch accompanied Brody on electric violin through most of the songs, and he added an ethereal element that offset the raw nature of Brody's vocals nicely. At one point, he did a solo that involved him playing into a phrase sampler, looping a part, then accompanying himself. The result was a remarkable one-man quartet.
The Live Oak seems to definitely be getting its feet under it. The rooftop deck and the front lounge area were well populated, and there was a good crowd waiting to hear Brody. The sound in the concert area was phenomenal. There is not a better-sounding room in Funkytown, and it doesn't overuse lighting effects like nearly every other venue in the city. In return, the sound seems to inspire the musicians who play there. We've needed the Live Oak for a long time.
In the near future, Brody will be spending much of his time playing bass for Katsük. He'll be wearing a mask and performing under the stage name Aqal, an acronym for "all quadrants all levels." It's a reference to author-philosopher Ken Wilber's Integral Theory. Brody's consistent gigs with Katsük will give him the economic freedom to continue his solo project, and if you see him on the bill, you really need to take that opportunity to see him.
You can download Brody's music at: www.dansonbrody.com.