Indeed, Brian’s albums arrive like dispatches from a friend whose warmth belies not seeing them that often. And he has a way with words that renders his recollections of hazy summers and growing pains irresistible, delivered by a voice conveying as much with its timbre as its content. So endearing is this regular autobiographical beat, in fact, that the comparative lack of musical evolution has never really been an issue. Brian may rarely stray too far or too long from his mix of bar-room stomp and blue-collar earnestness, but he did, for example, trade his bedrock Americana for a tour of England rendered in New Jersey drawl on 2018 album Sleepwalkers. In that regard, then, it can be tricky to evaluate Brian’s records in relation to one another unless he’s saying something noticeably less interesting this time around, which, having turned 40 and consigned The Gaslight Anthem to the dreaded “indefinite hiatus”, could certainly be a possibility – though you somehow doubt it.
You’d be right to, because Local Honey is a telling title. The man’s scope may now be constrained by roles as dedicated husband, father of two, and mortgage payer, but that’s forced his focus inwards rather than out, bringing increased introspection and a harder working imagination to the fore. More surprising than that, in a bid to avoid the easy route of treating these subjects to the old singer-songwriter clichés – jangling opener When You’re Ready notwithstanding – Brian has attempted to shake things up musically, too.