“So Much Beyond Us” by Brooks Forsyth
“This is a purgatory story about an old, old soul stuck out on the sea,” Brooks Forsyth declares before laying into the confident strums of “Seasick James,” the mid-way staple of his new album So Much Beyond Us, which was released in 2018 and is finding its second wind this spring. “Seasick James” is a little more old fashioned than the hybrid title track, but both songs hold the tonality of their strings in a much higher regard than most of the folk tunes that have made their way into the public lexicon this year have. In tracks like this one and the blustery “Girl from Caroline,” Forsyth exhibits his heart-melting vocal skills alongside some righteously rhythmic beats that, at least in my own experience, stay with the listener long after the music has ceased to play. The music video for “Cast My Dreams to the Wind” depicts our crooner as a humble singer/songwriter who has virtually no interest in the cosmetic artificiality that has become a mainstay of the indie folk genre in the last decade, and from where I sit, it personifies his artistry better than any other piece of material he’s released in his career thus far has.
“Little Coal Mining Town” is, much like “Seasick James,” a backwoods beat-driven ballad, and while it sets us up for the magnetizing conclusion that we find in “Heaven is but Going Home,” I don’t view it as a bridge track exclusively. There’s no filler to be skipped over in So Much Beyond Us, and I would even go as far as to make the argument that songs like “Restless at Home, Lonesome on the Road,” which is constructed as a contemplative lyrical track, would serve the record as a single just as well as “Cast My Dreams to the Wind” does. Forsyth must have spent a lot of time in the studio ironing out all of the minute details within this music, because there’s really no example that I could point to within this tracklisting where it sounds like he’s rushing or throwing fragments of a song together in hopes of filling out the album’s run-time.
My favorite song in So Much Beyond Us is “Ain’t Got the Time,” which is probably the most physical of all the vocal-centric swing tracks that the record contains. It couldn’t be any more different in structure than “Don’t Come Around No More” is, but both of these songs give us a picture window into the craftsmanship of their composer that was previously obscured from our view in past releases. I have similar sentiments about the stripped down “Blue Railroad Train” and pensive “Anna Lee,” and when we take apart this album and look at its nuts and bolts, there’s really no debating that it’s a more robustly arranged and intellectually stimulating offering than almost anything else that Forsyth’s scene has produced in 2018 or 2019. So Much Beyond Us is as ambitious an effort as we’ve ever heard from this young man, but I have a gut feeling that tells me that it’s not the only hit we’re going to hear from Brooks Forsyth as the years go by.