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Deep and passionate Brett Dennen
by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

Brett Dennen w/ Mason Jennings, Missy Higgins
May 17 - 8 PM
The Showbox (Market)
$25


Back when The Crocodile Café was up and running, I had drinks with singer-songwriter Brett Dennen on the afternoon the Hotel Café Tour pulled in for a sold-out concert. I became interested in his music after a stellar gig at 2006's Bumbershoot Festival, a breakthrough performance in front of several hundred people. I just knew this guy was going to skyrocket to bigger and better things, and here we are two years later with Dennen headlining a concert at The Showbox and soon to open select dates for John Mayer. The Northern California native looks more like a heavy machine operator than a calm musician - towering figure, thick build, and moppy red hair. But he's an overgrown teddy bear - so passionate, so sincere, as his songs tend to be - I'm simply overjoyed that he's found an audience so quickly because this is the kind of artist who should come into success.

"Ain't No Reason," Dennen's leadoff single from his debut So Much More, is a moving folk-rock ballad about love being the ultimate savior for a world gone wrong - his raw, bluesy voice wrapping with assurance around the chorus "Love will come set me free / I know it will." He's drawn comparisons to Tracy Chapman, but whereas Chapman can often be so utterly depressing, Dennen manages to sprinkle a bright side here and there. The reggae-tinged "She's Mine" is a lyrically sweet boy-meets-girl number with a peppy guitar backdrop and "The One Who Loves You the Most," my personal favorite, begs to be on a wedding reception mixtape. What I like about Dennen is that he writes his songs from the inside out, as if he'd once been damaged goods and lives to tell of its pains and rebounds.

An equally remarkable singer-songwriter, Mason Jennings - who my friend's younger brother drove seven hours to see last year here in Seattle - joins Dennen at The Showbox on Saturday night. Jennings recently played with Dave Matthews and Jack Johnson at Honolulu's Kokua Festival, so he's no spring chicken. Opening the show is Australian newbie Missy Higgins, but Dennen is the star attraction - and deserves to be - likely to draw his swelling assemblage of fans who've followed him from the Crocodile to Chop Suey to Neumos and eventually to The Showbox. Dennen is known to spontaneously boogie down onstage, but overall things will be mellow tomorrow night with three guitar-vocalists on the bill and an endless supply of brokenhearted, back in the saddle, don't worry-be happy tunes. Leave the earplugs at home.

Artist essentials: Ear-sample tracks from So Much More at www.brettdennen.net.

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