Broken Bow Records may have ‘cut ties’ with Dean after the relative lack of success in the USA but it only set Dean up to align himself with Canada’s biggest (or most successful) country label, Open Road Recordings/Universal Music Canada for the recording and release of this album, Trail In Life. Featuring 10 tracks solely written by Brody himself – except for album lead-off track “People Know You By Your First Name” – the record certainly enhances exactly why Dean Brody is quickly becoming a star in Canada. The week of the album’s release it already features a Top 10 hit in “Roll That Barrel Out” (listen here) and a Top 20 hit in first single “Wildflower.” “Barrel” is a fantastic song about a Jamaican man who enjoyed his life so much that he shared his joy for life with everyone around him. It’s the kind of song that Kenny Chesney and Billy Currington have recorded over the years yet in Dean’s and Producer Matt Rovey’s hands, the song doesn’t turn into a caricature of ‘beacy’ songs as there isn’t a steel drum to be found on the track. “Wildflower” is a sweet, laid-back and romantic ballad that finds Brody comparing the beauty of his wife to a wildflower. The instrumentation is fantastic (and fiddle and mandolin-laced) while Brody’s voice – while not ‘soaring’ like a James Otto or Ronnie Dunn – suits the mood and melody of the song.
“People Know You By Your First Name” is a song that chronicles a small town and the people who live there but the lyrics are tight and the chorus fits right. It’s a slice of modern country music which could’ve been a big hit in America had it been on Brody’s first album. It’s similar to “Small Town USA” yet it feels more universal than that tune (and since it’s chronicling Brody’s own hometown in Canada, it’s more ‘worldly’). “Angelina” is an interesting tune about a summer love that turns to autumn loneliness while the title tune “Trail In Life” is a song about the way life (“time and distance”) has a way of moving on, even if you might not want it to . It’s an beautifully written and sung song that recalls Garth Brooks’ “What She’s Doing Now” in some parts but is a much, much more interesting song in that the verses discuss different parts of the narrator’s life, from that first love to that college best friend to his life as an adopted child in a loving family. It feels personal and intimate and it feels like a spectacular hit to me. “Sunday Drive” is a newer, more contemporary sound for Dean Brody as it is what his bio calls a more ‘rock and roll’ sound but it still is steeped with beautiful fiddle fills, even if the song isn’t like anything else he recorded on Dean Brody.
With its latin rhythms and vocal style, “Gypsy Girl” might recall that popular Ricky Martin song from the late 1990s a little bit in the intro but by the time Dean hits the chorus the song returns to being a country tune. It’s an interesting song that works well as a track on Trail in Life and it’s quite possible that the song may become a radio single down the line. “The Kitchen Song” is a cute little tune about a loving couple and when paired with “The Porch” it finds a man completely content with the way his life has turned out.
While Dean Brody’s career in the USA hasn’t taken off the way he probably hoped it would, he nonetheless has turned into a star in his native Canada and when left to his own devices with producer Matt Rovey, he has crafted a fantastic sophomore album that feels like it will be a massive hit in Canada. Trail in Life is a fantastic album without a bad track to be found. It’s steady from song one to song ten and if Nashville was paying attention, they’d give Dean Brody another shot at success in the USA. He isn’t like most other artists and while his voice doesn’t have range that some people love in their country singers nowadays, his ability to be true to himself vocally makes him something that you don’t really hear on the radio these days outside of Alan Jackson (who seems to be getting less and less hits on the radio). Dean Brody is not only a unique vocalist but he’s a hell of a songwriter and country radio can always use more of folks like him.