Brett Dennen’s single “Cassidy” from his 2016 release, Por Favor, extracts the essential elements of a summer fling with surgical precision. It’s salty skin, beach sunsets and bonfire nestling in an easy-listening package.
The song escapes being a good-vibes summer anthem with a mid-September expiration date thanks to Dennen’s thoughtful songwriting, experimental beats and rich imagery. “All the smoke hung in the air as the sun was setting/ You said it looked like an oil spill in heaven,” he sings in a refreshingly unpolished nasal voice that evokes Elvis Costello.
In an interview with Huffington Post, Por Favor producer Dave Cobb compares Dennen’s songwriting to Paul Simon’s.
“[Dennen] has the humor and wit and weight all in one fell swoop,” he said.
That wit is clear in the standout track “Bonfire,” as he sings, “These clothes are loose and my appetite is gone/ But throw them in the bonfire where they belong.”
He also reveals a sweet vulnerability. “We are changing/ Fighting for the same thing/ Where the lighting lives.”
Elsewhere on the album, Dennen revisits his folk pop roots and licks the ocean salt in his wounds from a failed romantic relationship in “Strawberry Road.” He warbles his way through a confession: “I am up on old/ Strawberry Road/ Trying to keep my head from spinning.”
Dennen first earned radio play with his 2004 single, “Desert Sunshine.” A native of Northern California, the diverse landscape of California is a renewable source of his inspiration. His 2013 single, “Wild Child,” declares his rugged sensibilities. “I am a wild child/ Yes I am/ I love the country/ And I want to run free.” The video depicts the boyish redhead backpacking through the wilderness, sleeping in meadows and nibbling on pine needles.
Dennen tours extensively as a solo artist and has added momentum since signing with big label Atlantic Records. He has also opened for a repertoire of superstar musicians such as Dave Matthews, Taj Mahal and Jackson Browne. His chipper and memorable 2013 single “Come Back Kid” was the theme song for the short-lived NBC sitcom About a Boy.
Dennen appears at Folktale Winery as part of local radio station KRML’s Live in the Vines series. Admission to the concert includes a glass of wine; Tarpy’s Roadhouse caters. Dennen’s personal brand of wine, Dennen Wines, will also be available for tasting.
Big Sur-based indie folk rocker Talmon Owens, who shares a similar outdoors-inspired palate with Dennen, opens.
BRETT DENNEN 6pm Monday, Aug. 15, at Folktale Winery,8940 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel. $25. 293-7500, www.folktalewinery.com