Iconic singer, songwriter, guitarist, and Alice In Chains co-founder Jerry Cantrell has released his long awaited and highly anticipated album, Brighten.
“It’s referencing different shades and putting layers into things, so it’s not just all f–king monochrome like, ‘Hey, this is a happy song,’ or ‘Hey, this is a depressing song,’” said Cantrell in a recent interview with Billboard. “It’s a mix of all sorts of things. It’s a body of work, and it definitely has an overall feel of energy and a little more light — but there’s also plenty of dark in there, too. Both are interlocked and important, and it just depends on what ratio you have in the ingredients in the mixing bowl.”
Cantrell was already working on Brighten prior to his pair of sold out Los Angeles shows in December 2019, but it was at these shows where Cantrell met an eclectic group of new musicians who joined the cast of Brighten.
“Tyler Bates not only introduced me to a lot of cool players, he also helped me put the band together for those shows, and performed with me,” Cantrell said. “It was fun to play tunes I hadn’t played in years from Boggy Depot and Degradation Trip.”
Cantrell had already been working on what would become Brighten entering the studio with co-producer and film composer Tyler Bates (300, John Wick), and Paul Fig (long-time engineer). They welcomed a dynamic cast of supporting players including Duff McKagan (Guns N’ Roses, Loaded) on select bass tracks, Greg Puciato (Dillinger Escape Plan) contributing to backing vocals and drummers Gil Sharone and Abe Laboriel, Jr. (Paul McCartney) and Joe Barresi (Tool, Queens of the Stone Age) handled the mixing of Brighten.
Cantrell said, “It was like an old school seventies record where a multitude of musicians played. So it’s not a set band. I got to make music with a bunch of people I never had before, along with friends like Duff & Tyler & Gil who I’ve worked with previously.”
Additional musicians on the album included pedal steel master Michael Rozon; Vincent Jones on piano, Wurlitzer, and organ; Jordan Lewis on piano; Matias Ambrogi-Terres on strings; and Lola Bates on select additional backing vocals.
“This record offers cleaner glimpses of what I grew up on, listened to, and am still inspired by today,” Cantrell stated. “I was raised by two country fans, so I think you can hear that energy in there as well. This album has prominent roles for keys, strings, and pedal steel, which I haven’t incorporated in such a heavy fashion before.”
The riff in the first track, “Atone,” introduces the LP and rolls like a runaway freight train underscored by cinematic twang. As the momentum builds, Cantrell intones the hummable hook before a psychedelic break. The epic “Siren Song” conjures imagery of “an individual in an inhospitable environment recalling a memory of a love that’s nourishing. Even though they may never touch, see, or meet again, the memory keeps the loner going.” “Had To Know” features driving guitars and Jerry’s patented harmonized vocals, and the added element of organ, reminiscent of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ Benmont Tench on “Refugee.”
“I have a certain style and a way of going about things,” Cantrell admitted. “There’s plenty of darkness and edge, but there’s also some light, space, and good vibes. Pretty early on, I knew “Brighten” was the cornerstone track of the album, and it seemed to fit the body of work as a title.”
Fittingly, Cantrell pays homage to one of his favorite artists, Sir Elton John, with a cover of “Goodbye” to conclude the album.
“Madman Across The Water is one of my favorite records of all time,” he exclaimed. “Out of respect to Elton, I wouldn’t include it unless he said it was okay. He’d played piano on ‘Black Gives Way To Blue,’ which I wrote for Layne, so I reached out to Elton, he listened to it, and told me ‘You should absolutely use it.’ I got the signoff by the man himself. I couldn’t think of a better way to close the record!”
Ultimately, these tunes are a worthy addition to Cantrell’s repertoire and the larger American rock ‘n’ roll songbook.
“At the end of the day, I can walk away knowing I completed the journey that I started with a group of friends who were all committed to the same goal,” he said. “I never know where the fuck I’m going when we start. I just want to take the trip. I’m satisfied I did the best I could and created something that didn’t exist before—another really quality chapter in a growing book I’ve been working on for 30-plus years. I feel like it’s a real rock ‘n’ roll record.”
As 2022 approaches, Cantrell is preparing for a tour of the US that will bring him to cities such as New York, LA, Chicago, Boston, Nashville and Vegas among many other cities. Tour dates are listed below.
Brighten Track List
- Prism of Doubt
- Black Hearts and Evil Done
- Siren Song
- Had To Know
- Nobody Breaks You
JERRY CANTRELL 2022 NORTH AMERICAN TOUR DATES
- Thu-Mar-24 St. Paul Palace Theatre
- Sat-Mar-26 Chicago The Vic Theatre
- Mon-Mar-28 Detroit St. Andrews Hall
- Tue-Mar-29 Toronto History
- Thu-Mar-31 Pittsburgh Roxian Theatre
- Sat-Apr-02 Atlantic City Music Box @ Borgata
- Sun-Apr-03 Philadelphia Theatre of Living Arts
- Tue-Apr-05 New York Irving Plaza
- Wed-Apr-06 Boston Big Night Live
- Fri-Apr-08 Baltimore Rams Head Live
- Sat-Apr-09 Raleigh The Ritz
- Sun-Apr-10 Charlotte Fillmore
- Tue-Apr-12 Orlando House of Blues
- Wed-Apr-13 St. Petersburg Jannus Live
- Fri-Apr-15 Atlanta Tabernacle
- Sun-Apr-17 Nashville Ryman Auditorium
- Tue-Apr-19 New Orleans Fillmore
- Thu-Apr-21 Dallas House of Blues
- Fri-Apr-22 San Antonio Aztec Theatre
- Sat-Apr-23 Houston House of Blues
- Mon-Apr-25 Oklahoma City Diamond Ballroom
- Wed-Apr-27 Denver The Summit
- Thu-Apr-28 Salt Lake City The Depot
- Sun-May-01 Portland Roseland Theater
- Mon-May-02 Seattle Moore Theatre
- Wed-May-04 Sacramento Ace of Spades
- Thu-May-05 Los Angeles Belasco Theatre
- Sat-May-07 Las Vegas House of Blues
- Sun-May-08 San Diego House of Blues