Gary Brewer Releases “House of Axes”

A lot of roots fans have been complaining about a lack of guitar anthems in the last few years, but luckily for all of us, a man by the name of Gary Brewer is answering the call in his new album, 2023’s Gary Brewer’s House of Axes, and all nine of its stately suite-like songs. Brewer presents a breathtaking instrumental collection in Gary Brewer’s House of Axes’ “Little Brown Jug”, “White Horse Breakdown” and lead single “Old Brown Case,” and though none of these songs stands out as overwhelmingly experimental, to say there are no conventional structures in this LP would be quite the understatement indeed.


Where some artists would colorize their melodies with lyrical lashings designed to explain as much as they are to evoke, Gary Brewer has almost no use for singing in his new studio album aside from one particularly poignant example. In all reality, I think words would have got in the way of the larger narrative he’s trying to get into our heads with the textured assault of “Sourwood Ridge,” “Southern Flavor” and “Old Minor Joe Clark.” Some things just can’t be interpreted through linguistics alone, and in the case of Gary Brewer’s House of Axes, the emotion in this tracklist is simply too potent for any crooner to break down.

While there are certainly a lot of blistering arrangements in this record, there isn’t a lot of actual guitar excess to come between the audience and the artist here. In tracks like “Foggy Mountain Top / Lonesome Road Blues,” “Tom Rock Twist” and the “Little Brown Jug”, we’re getting black and white grooves flanked with lush fretwork that is always accentuated by an equally spellbinding tempo from the man behind the guitar, and though some critics might argue that there are loose ends in short songs like “White Horse Breakdown” that could have been extended, I think efficiency is what makes Gary Brewer’s House of Axes such a stone cold listen time and time again.

I can see where this album, and specifically Gary Brewer’s style of playing guitar, could sell well with both the roots and Americana scenes in 2023, which is saying something when taking into account just how far apart those two groups have grown since the early 2010s. The technique is more Americana here than it is folk (in most cases, at least), but the compositional tone is far more accessible than anything the Americana community has released in an exceptionally long time.

Try as you might (and I would even go so far as to encourage you to explore), I don’t believe you’re likely to find another instrumental LP that is quite as thrilling as Gary Brewer’s phenomenal Gary Brewer’s House of Axes is this June. From the first time we hear his fingers dance across the guitar fretboard to the very instant the notes disappear into the universe from which they were originally born, this record gives us a reason to stay glued to the edge of our seats in anticipation, and no matter what genre of music we’re talking about, that’s not easy to find nowadays.

Gwen Waggoner