SARATOGA SPRINGS — You may know Jeff Brisbin in any number of ways.
He is a one-man Welcome Party at the Spa City’s daytime cafes; He is a night-time traveler on a never-ending tour of regional performance stages, trusty guitar cradled in his arms. Maybe you first came upon him as the songwriter who struck those solemn tones in the wake of the sad passing of local resident Nancy Pitts, capturing in the process a city’s emotions in his touching ballad “Homeless Heart.”
Brisbin - the godson of Sage of Saratoga Frank Sullivan, first began writing songs at the age of 13, tumbling along the frayed edges of understanding tone and transcending meaning as his literary godfather looked over his shoulder.
“Frank would come over to the house and say, ‘Hey, show me the lyrics.’ It would be something silly thing like, ‘Poor Amy Drew, what happened to you?’ and he would give me constructive criticism: ‘What’s this about? What are you trying to say here?’” recalls Brisbin, who has just released a new album “Blame It On Love,” featuring 10 original songs that track the landscape of communally shared human themes, offering blessings for what is, yearning for what may be, and holding love tight to the chest, at its heart center.
Musically, the 10-tune journey is accompanied by dips into a ying-yang of harmonies - a solid foundation of guitar-bass-and-drums augmented by tasteful teases via a bevy of instrumentalists; There are pianos and there are mandolins. There are cellos and saxophones. There are organs and accordions and even a tin whistle to accent the varied collection of ballads, up-tempo celebrations, and addictive sing-a-longs.
One stand-out track, “New Year’s Day,” kicks off with the pulled tension of Oona Grady’s violin - morphing gypsy and Celtic styles, tempered by the percussive paddles of Brian Melick’s multiple drum tracks.
Grady and Melick are among the nearly two dozen players on “Blame It On Love,” which features some of the region’s most recognizable names: George Fletcher and Joel Brown, Chuck Lamb and Jim Mastrianni, among them.
“When you pick these people, it’s like casting a movie, and we got the best,” says Brisbin, who credits producer Dave Maswick for his genius in style, and whom he refers to as “My George Martin.” The album is Brisbin’s third, and his follow-up to “Foreverly,” released in 2017 and also produced by Maswick – whose Ballston Spa studio is where the tracks for “Blame It On Love,” first began coming together, in late summer 2018.
The album’s title track holds special significance.
“The first song, the title song ‘Blame It On Love,’ is about Forrest Jenkins. Forrest and I were dear buddies when he was in town,” Brisbin recalls of Jenkins, who was known as a singer-songwriter and guitar player when he lived in Saratoga Springs.
“After he moved away, we would talk every 10 days or so. When I released ‘Foreverly’ he called me up on a Thursday morning and said, ‘Hey go look at my Facebook page. I just reviewed ‘Foreverly,’ I love it.’ So, the weekend comes and goes and it’s like Tuesday when I get a call from his mother. She says: ‘Jeff Brisbin. I’ve got to tell you, when Forrest was home this weekend he talked about you so much I thought I knew you personally. He loved you.’ Forrest went home, got his mail from his neighbor, and then collapsed right there. A heart attack.” Jenkins was 50 years old.
“I immediately went and found a video of Forrest at Caffe Lena,” Brisbin recalled. “In one of the songs, one of the lines was: You gotta blame it on love. I hit the pause, got out my legal pad and my guitar and in 10 minutes I had the song ‘Blame It On Love.’ The song itself is universal, but it’s about Forrest, my love for him, and what happens to us in life.”
“Blame It On Love” is available as a CD available at Celtic Treasures in Saratoga Springs, and via download at a variety of streaming services, including Spotify, Amazon, CD Baby, iTunes, and Pandora, and others.