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Album Review: Nomad by Dan Brown

"Its title ringing true."

There are many senses in which multi-instrumentalist Dan Brown’s second album Nomad is aptly titled. Inspired by the Scottish outdoors, the record speaks to the freedom of being on the move. It’s a message Brown has adopted very literally, as he recently left his Glasgow home to live in a van. But the album’s nomadic nature runs deeper than that: crisp, glittering guitar and wild, featherweight strings drive the music forward, and revelatory key changes lead us into uncharted territory.

With his 2021 debut, Brown joined contemporaries like pianist Fergus McCreadie and saxophonist Matt Carmichael in infusing Scottish folk with the rich harmonies and meandering melodies of jazz. But deviating from his peers, whose latest albums are sonically cohesive and largely acoustic, Brown is less restrained with Nomad, bringing electronica into the mix along with woodwinds, brass, and mandolin. The album never lingers in one soundscape for long, its title ringing true yet again.

Featuring a line-up of stellar Scottish talent, including cellist Juliette Lemoine and saxophonist Norman Willmore, the record leaps nimbly between the tingling mandolin, churning accordion, and softly popping bodhran on ‘Hula Days’, and the simmering electric guitar and cold electronics of ‘The Great Elk’. After the dense, lurching ‘Misadventures of Razzy the Cat’, ‘Crossroads’ evens things out with glassy piano and milky clarinet.

From Tiernan Courell’s tumultuous whistle solo against a backdrop of gleaming electronic jazz on ‘Roke Island’, through the gossamer woodwinds and twinkling ambience of ‘Hundreds and Thousands’ to Brown’s flamenco-tinged guitar on the ecstatic ‘Boggy Big Steps’, a further sense of forward motion is made clear: Brown is taking old genres on a new adventure.

Nomad is out now.

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