The Key Studio Sessions: Mike "Slo-Mo" Brenner

If you’ve spent any amount of time watching the Philly music scene, it’s hard to miss versatile guitarist Mike “Slo-Mo” Brenner. He’s ingrained in the local roots / Americana community, performing currently with No Good Sister, as well as collaborating with Psalmships and Kicking Down Doors; way back in the day, he led The Low Road and frequently sat in with Marah. Despite being one of the most skilled slide players – well, anywhere, but particularly in Philly – he also is very much about pushing the boundaries of what roots guitar means. He had a long-running collaboration with rapper Mic Wrecka in the aughts; going further back, the first time I caught him was at the North Star Bar in 2001, playing bluesy licks while a guy named DJ Vincenzo dropped breakbeats from two turntables. And for his current project, Brenner looks to the east.

In 2012, he traveled to Calcutta to study with the Indian slide guitar master Debashish Bhattacharya; the resulting project, Tripti, was released in 2013 and blended Brenner’s western rock sensibilities with meditative Indian classical stylings. The live band he rounded up to continue the project back stateside maintains that balance, as we hear in this week’s Key Studio Session. At the center, Brenner plays the chaturangui – a sort of hybrid of dobro, lap steel and sitar. Joining him is Valerie Vuolo on violin, Alfred James Goodrich on cello, Lance Davis on vocals and Hoagy Wing on percussion. In the set, you’ll hear Brenner’s originals – the title track of Tripti is a beautiful, expansive track in constant motion, while “Wind Come A’ Holwin” has the allure of Neil Young’s Dead Man score. But you’ll also hear covers from the rock canon given an eastern spin: “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” by Bob Dylan and “Been Caught Stealing” by Jane’s Addiction.

Listen to the session in its entirety below, download the tracks on our Soundcloud page and catch Brenner and the Tripti band live at the Mermaid Inn in Chestnut Hill on Thursday, April 9th, with Richard Drueding and Jim Hamilton; more information on the show can be found here.

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