Tidewater, the brainchild of Baylor college student Brett Allen, has already made waves with the release of debut album The Seas We Sail in April 2011. Self-described as “folky-pop indie rock,” Allen boasts comparisons to acts as diverse as Owl City and Switchfoot with a healthy dose of folk influenced instrumentation reminiscent of Nickel Creek and Mumford & Sons. On January 24, 2012, Tidewater brought a fresh EP born from his work with producer Kevin Gales.
The three-song collection begins with “Not Just Any Love,” a smooth fusion of acoustic and electronic elements in a song about unconditional love. The soft beat and combination of guitar, banjo, mandolin, and keys are all perfectly blended to create a backdrop for the lyrics: “you can stay, you can be still, you are wanted right here.” The song is heartfelt and encouraging, complex without feeling contrived.
The EP continues with title track “The Beautiful Life.” Here Tidewater’s rich songwriting is showcased brilliantly in an infectiously hopeful song about seeing beauty in life: “I saw the best of the blues in town in St. Louis. I saw the best of the blues in the skies of central Texas. Then I saw the blues in my nephew’s brand new eyes. This is the life.” Here the comparison to the songwriting of Switchfoot’s Jon Foreman is justified, with lyrics that are accessible while still holding a fixed and steady hope forefront.
“Desire” wraps up the collection on a slightly darker thematic note, exploring the endlessly needy nature of the human heart. This track explores a broader, more symphonic sound, based on a strong backbone of creative, layered beats. The instrumentation is beautifully crafted throughout, and here Brett Allen’s vocals also come into their own.
Throughout the collection, Tidewater draws on and combines countless elements in unique ways. Despite the diversity of the instruments and stylistic elements, the EP doesn’t feel forced. This is a rare ambitious project that actually lives up to its potential. Relatively early in his work, Brett Allen of Tidewater has already found his voice, and he embraces it. Whether playing mandolin, banjo, guitar, or programming synth beats, Allen achieves a beautifully crafted sound encasing an unwavering spark of hope.