To say that Gaz Brookfield has remained a fiercely independent musician, DIY stalwart and cottage industry enterprise is like saying that he is partial to the odd tattoo or used to have a bit of a thing for cider. Gigs are booked without agents, he chauffeurs himself around aided only by his own assigned RAC man and albums are recorded largely under his own multi-instrumental steam. But there comes a point where it is time to up the game, head into the realms of bigger and slicker production, aim for a fuller sound, work with a band. What is a West Country Boy to do?
Well, the logical extension is to gather friends who have steered their own creative crafts through similar independent waters and put together a gang of like-minded musicians and studio folk, this time operating under a slightly more striking and collaborative Do It Themselves flag.
But fear not I Know My Place is still very much trade mark Gaz, the same buoyant mix of humour, history and honest reflections – life affirming, optimistic and joyous, acoustic driven songs but now it is Gaz plus, Gaz 2.0, Gaz and the boys. Effectively what you get is the best of both worlds, the range, style and scope of songs that you have come to expect from him with added depth, colour and vitality. The barrelhouse piano and meandering country violin of Life Begins, the skittering banjo and Hammond wash of Flaws are testament to this and the wonderful narrative of The Tale of Gunner Haines reminds me that the distance between Gaz and the likes of The Men They Could Hang or the lyrics of Blyth Power is not that far.
And if there are still some wonderfully personal and minimal outings such as Sand and Sea, and The Ferry Song reveling in appreciation and love for the natural world and people around him, there are also some total rockers, the Gogol Bordello-esque World Spins, the up beat and vivacious title track and the poignant and touching tribute to a fallen friend that is Getting Drunk for Christmas, a seasonal alternative standard if ever there was one.
Maybe the punks got it wrong, maybe it isn’t about kicking down the barricades and declaring year zero, maybe it is actually about climbing through the back window of the music industry party and being an awkward, uninvited guest until there are enough of you stood glaring from the back of the room that the hosts can’t ignore you. I reckon any day now someone will beckon Gaz over for that metaphorical vol-au-vent and I’m not even sure if he will take it.