Brutal Dawn Bernard Fanning Dew Process/UMA Brutal Dawn is the companion album to last year’s Civil Dusk and sees Bernard Fanning on a similar slant, mixing the familiar rootsy elements of his debut solo album, Tea & Sympathy, with occasional diversions into slightly psychedelic terrain. Recorded, like its predecessor, at LaCueva, the Byron Bay studio owned by the singer and producer Nick DiDia, Brutal Dawn sees Fannng reflecting on his place in the world. America (Glamour and Prestige) is a none-toocomplimentary glance at time spent in the US, coloured by a George Harrison-esque guitar motif and nifty drums from guest Rob Hirst. His core band the Dark Fins, featuring drummer Declan Kelly, bassist Matt Engelbrecht, guitarist Andrew Morris and fiddler Salliana Campbell, delivers delicate textures that in DiDia’s hands leave plenty of room for Fanning’s emotive vocals to soar. He’s particularly emotional on the opening Shed My Skin, pondering a prisoner’s unease at the prospect of freedom, ably supported by vocals from Clare Bowditch. There’s angst also on the closing ballad, Letters from a Distant Shore, a soldier’s lament on the horrors of war. There’s no overtly political rant in the manner of Civil Dusk’s Belly of the Beast on Brutal Dawn; indeed there’s more ambiguity in some lyrics, such as the mid-paced How Many Times? and the CSNY-sounding Fighting for Air, but Fanning sells them well vocally. Civil Dusk’s rock wig-out Change of Pace was indeed that and a couple of tunes here burst with energy and joie de vivre, namely the country shuffle Somewhere Along the Way and the bluesy acoustic stroll No Name Lane, on which Fanning is in a peaceful frame of mind: “show my enemies a warm embrace / crush them with kindness and grace”. Brutal Dawn is not quite as consistent as its predecessor, but a worthy companion nonetheless.