Jeff Spevak is WXXI's arts and life editor and reporter.

Brian Lindsay goes beyond typical love songs on stalled new album By Jeff Spevak @jeffspevak1


Brian Lindsay has known for a long time how to write a song that goes straight to the heart.

There was “East Side of the River,” from his 2004 album “The Crossing.” It’s a lament of unrequited love — her family thinks he’s not good enough for her — wrapped in Springsteen-like wailing harmonica, drama-drenched guitar and the two banks of the Genesee River as metaphor: “You and I worlds apart, with a river in between.”

There was “King of the Mountain,” from his 2009 album “Esperanza,” a coming-of-age yowl with echoes of Steve Earle.

And then, from his 2014 album “The Monkey, the Tango and the Boogaloo,” there was “King of Broken Hearts,” on which he wails, “You’ve got secrets you hide beneath your bed,” and “find another man to be your fool.”

But many things have changed as Lindsay takes a step back and looks at his new album, “new” being a subjective term. Because this new, as-yet-unnamed album, was ready to go by the end of last February. Nearly a year ago.

“The whole record I wrote was based on living in the last four years,” Lindsay says. “Titles like ‘Love Lives Here,’ ‘Reckoning Day,’ ‘The American Night,’ ‘Gaslight Lounge’ — all these titles just flew out and I wrote ’em. And it was ready to go, man. I was really looking forward to dropping them in the spring, or at least in the summer, and then play.

“But then, you know, change of plans.”

When will we hear it? This new collection of songs from one of Rochester’s most accomplished rockers?

“It didn’t make sense for me to put out a record, you know,” Lindsay says. “I can’t really promote it per se, you know, like clubs or gigs. I think I played, I don’t know, six gigs the whole summer? It didn’t make sense to put a record out.”

That’s the conundrum musicians face these days. They have new music, but the clubs are quiet, or even closed. Does new music get heard in a vacuum?

click to enlarge

  • The Brian Lindsay Band.

And what few opportunities there are to play live, After those half-dozen gigs last summer with the band, Lindsay says the few remaining opportunities to play live bring with them a risk beyond going unheard.

“I just got too scared, man, it just didn’t feel right to me,” he says. “I talked it over with the boys. I said, ‘This is kind of the way it is.’”

Some agreed. Some didn’t. But the decision was made to wait out the coronavirus pandemic. Perhaps by June, it’ll be O.K. to come out and play. But even that, Lindsay admits, may be optimistic.

Still, he’s created something he longs to share. The new songs were not born to be muted.

“I gotta release the record, I’ve had all of these people put their time in on that, and all that,” Lindsay says. “And I’ve put a hell of a lot of time in.

“I think there’s some good songs on there, and I want to get them out to the public, where they need to be.”

Lindsay’s not even sure this is the right idea, but…

“The new strategy is to release them as singles, I guess, and try to keep semi-relevant and on the scene, until we can get together and shake hands and give hugs, you know?” he says.

At first glance, “Love Lives Here,” released Oct. 30 as a downloadable single, might be interpreted as being fraught with the kind of anguished love that is one of Lindsay’s specialties. Then the true meaning becomes clear:

Now some men build bridges and some build walls/
Tell me mister, on which side do you fall?
If your neighbor seeks refuge, would you offer your hand?
Heaven help those on the border land.

The love here is for refugees turned back by a wall at the southern border of the United States.

And now it’s “Reckoning Day,” the new single he’s just released. One verse in, and the listener is thinking it’s a Lindsay breakup song. But in the second verse, the songwriter makes it clear. The breakup is with Trump.

“I changed the first verse, to make it a breakup song, just because I didn’t really want to harp too much on the, you know, this present scene and all that,” Lindsay says. “Because it was definitely all that. And I ended up changing it to three verses, three different verses. The first one was a breakup song, yeah. The second one was about the president, and the third verse is more like, you know, the racial reckoning we’re dealing with.”

So “Love Lives Here” and “Reckoning Day” emerge from this moment. And when we finally hear “Gaslight Lounge,” that’s likely not going to be about a romantic night on the town, but a reference to the term “gaslighting.” The word is generally defined as emotional manipulation at the hands of someone that leads you to question your own sanity. There’s been a lot of that going around the last four years as well.

With the times came urgency in songwriting, but now the album has gone from 100 mph to full stop. Maybe that’s not a bad thing.

The pandemic, and its silencing of live music, allows Lindsay the luxury of re-examining his words and making adjustments. He’s rewritten maybe a half-dozen of the songs.

So he’s like someone going out every day to check on the garden, to see what new growth has emerged. Or maybe he’s like a man creeping down to the basement, to check on that new mail-order, mushroom-growing kit and see the new fungus. Pick your metaphor — 2020 was that kind of year.

Yet Lindsay saw a glimmer of hope last week, with the inauguration of a new president. Maybe that will once again change the arc of the album.

“I usually don’t get teary-eyed too much for stuff like that, but I did today,” he said after he and his wife, Michelle, watched the inauguration of Joe Biden. “Michelle and I were sitting here going, ‘Oh my God, this guy is on it, on it, on it.’ And it was beautiful, man, I loved the whole thing.”

Beautiful and overdue, “a monumental relief,” he says. Lindsay will even forgive Garth Brooks for showing up at the inauguration wearing blue jeans. It’s time to stop beating each other up — which makes Lindsay think about snagging a phrase from “Love Lives Here” to name the new album: “Black and Blue Heart.” Because our love is bruised.

Or maybe, he’ll steal a line from Trump’s inauguration speech for an album title: “American Carnage.”

Then, he waves off that idea.

“Yeah, I’ve had enough of the freakin’ Trump thing.”

Jeff Spevak is WXXI's arts and life editor and reporter. He can be reached at

Track review: 'Love Lives Here' by Brian Lindsay

By Frank De Blase

Something I’ve come to admire about Rochester roots rocker Brian Lindsay is his cool and casual electric guitar-playing. He loosens his grip and hits all six strings, often letting them rattle as open chords.

That distinctive guitar sound is prominent on his new single “Love Lives Here” is heavy, with support from fellow guitarists Scott Zane and Lloyd Gala, as well as drummer Greg Andrew, bassist Ken Romano, and Alan Murphy on piano and organ.

With shades of Springstreen, Lindsay’s voice and heart share the same world-weary space on his sleeve in this melancholic but defiantly hopeful song about fighting hatred with love.

“Soulful Rochester rockers The Mighty High and Dry have struck a nerve on its new single, "I Was Living Here." With guest vocals by Brian Lindsay and Danielle Ponder, each weighing in on a verse, the band addresses nascent issues like the Dakota Access Pipeline and Black Lives Matter. Despite the subjects' frustrations, it proves good music can confront bad times — and that good music should confront bad times.” - Frank DeBlase

Rochester City News paper

I had some time to kill, so I ventured over to Parcel 5 to catch the Brian Lindsay Band put on one hell of a show. The band clearly loves Neil Young, but as exemplified by the new material the sextet dished out, it's getting serious on its own compositions. There's some righteous anger burning behind those eyes and in those hands. It was cool to hear it bounce off downtown walls before heading for the sky. Keep on rockin' in the Fringe world.” - Frank DeBlase

Rochester City News paper

Spevak_review_The_Monkey.jpg” - Jeff Spevak

— Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

The record company is going to have to front me another copy of Brian Lindsay's "The Monkey, The Tango, and the Boogaloo," because I ate the first one. No shit, I got done with the preliminary spin, smeared some peanut butter on it and ate it. Good records call to mind comparisons and metaphors, but only the truly great ones can be called delicious. Lindsay is one of my favorite singers of the hardcore troubadour ilk and he comes out thundering on this new album's first track — and my new fave — "What Does Love Mean To You?" like a runaway tractor. "The Bully" is a tres cool tug-o-war between Jersey blue-eyed soul and straight-up rock 'n' roll. "Everyday" is a classic example of urban Americana; a "just right" blend of red clay and asphalt. "Seven Days Seven Nights" with its snake shake and voodoo is a new harder rockin' side to Lindsay, I've only, up to this point, heard live. The man even gets down with a pretty piano ballad toward the end of the affair with "King Of Broken Hearts." "The Monkey, The Tango, and the Boogaloo" is an 11-song send up to an era when LPs were enjoyed front to back, not just as collections of potential hits. This is a work of art I highly recommend you spend some time with. In fact get two; one to share with a friend ... or eat.” - FRANK DE BLASE

Rochester City News Paper

“This is knocking you to your knees great music. Roots Rock at its finest.” - Roots Music Report”

Roots Radio Report

“Concert Review: Brian Lindsay Band, Humped the Chevy across town after that to catch the tail end of Brian Lindsay’s set at Lovin’ Cup. Lindsay and his band were in the home stretch when I rolled up and were nice enough to break out one of my favorite tunes of theirs, “Summerville.” Lindsay’s rock ’n’ roll is rivaled only by his prolific pen. Lindsay is our Boss. ” - Frank de Blase, Rochester City News Paper (Oct 29, 2012)” - Frank DeBlase

Rochester City News paper

“Brian’s music is pure Americana; plugged in Americana that is full of spunk and life. He possesses a Springsteen type swagger and exudes the same confidence delivering his well crafted tunes with guitars blazing.” - Don Zelazny, Americana Roots” - Don Zelazny

America Roots

“Brian Lindsay wanted to make a record about summer, and he's done just that. It's not too hard to imagine the guitars and imagery of Esperanza blasting out of passing car windows on a beautiful summer day.” - Jeff Spevak, D&C” - Jeff Spevak

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

“Brian Lindsay's "King of the Mountain" #1 at commercial WOCM 98.1 in Ocean City, Maryland for 2 weeks straight! ” -

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