Album Review: Brooks Dixon – Rhododendron Highway

With Rhododendron Highway, Brooks Dixon delivers an exquisite, masterfully crafted album that serves as a sonic manifestation of his life’s journey. It’s an 11-track musical odyssey, each song imbued with raw emotion, sincere introspection, and compelling storytelling. The album is an honest account of his life in the late twenties, the transition into fatherhood, and the re-evaluation of priorities.

From the opening track “Charleston,” it’s clear that Dixon isn’t shying away from revealing his innermost thoughts and experiences. It’s a song born out of Dixon’s post-college days, highlighting his longing for exploration and an inherent fear of settling down too soon. His lyrics evoke a sense of wanting to branch out while being tied down by the roots of his hometown, Greenville. The song’s playful melody, Dixon’s smooth vocals, and Sara Middleton’s harmonizing create an intriguing auditory landscape that captivates the listener right off the bat.

The exploration of self continues with “Stranger’s Bed.” The song delves deep into the uncomfortable feeling of alienation within oneself. It’s an introspective track, giving voice to those moments of life when we feel lost and disconnected from our own self-image. Dixon’s ability to turn complex, personal feelings into a relatable musical piece is evident in this track.”Midnight Shower,” co-written with Tim McNary, further exemplifies Dixon’s introspective songwriting. It’s inspired by a moment of contemplation following a late-night gig, causing Dixon to question his pursuit and its worth. The song expertly explores the dichotomy between dreams and their required sacrifices, creating a resonating anthem for all those who’ve ever questioned their life’s purpose.

With “Needles,” Dixon takes a bold step, candidly addressing his diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes and the subsequent shift in perspective. His battle with accepting dependence on medication, mourning the loss of his perceived freedom, and eventually embracing his new life is brought to life with raw authenticity. The poignant use of the mandolin by David Flint enriches the song, mirroring the melancholic, reflective tone of the lyrics.”Store Your Treasure” is a philosophical piece that asks the listener to introspect on what they value in life – material possessions, experiences, or acts of generosity. This introspection forms the backbone of the song, providing listeners with a chance to consider their own values.

The album takes a romantic turn with “Would You Say Yes,” a heartfelt song Dixon penned for his wife when he proposed. The beauty of the song lies in its celebration of the romantic question, even when the answer seems inevitable. It is a gentle reminder of the importance of questions in relationships and their contribution to the depth of connections.”Married in the Mountains,” a beautiful duet with Anna Stine, captures the resilient nature of love in times of uncertainty. Inspired by the love stories that persisted despite the pandemic, the song is a tribute to the simplicity of love and the grandeur of committing to each other, regardless of external circumstances.

Dixon’s rumination on the essence of art, its perceived disposability, and its inherent value comes to the forefront in “After All.” It’s a thoughtful song that underlines the significance of individual expressions in art, despite its mass production in the modern world.

The final tracks, “Hey Hey,” “Rolling Stone,” and “Good Conversation,” encapsulate Dixon’s journey to self-acceptance. “Hey Hey” and “Rolling Stone” serve as sonic narratives of Dixon’s introspective journey, while “Good Conversation” stands out as a compassionate letter to his past self. This song encourages appreciating life’s journey and emphasizes the importance of self-care and slowing down.”Rhododendron Highway” is the culmination of Dixon’s personal and musical journey. Recorded in Nashville and Greenville, South Carolina, with a host of talented musicians, the album encapsulates Dixon’s growth and maturity as an artist. It’s a testament to his songwriting abilities and his knack for weaving personal experiences into universally relatable narratives. This album, imbued with Dixon’s emotional nuance and raw honesty, invites listeners into his world and encourages them to find their own reflections within his songs.

Dixon’s dedication and passion are evident in every track of “Rhododendron Highway.” His storytelling prowess, coupled with his emotive vocals and the rich, layered instrumentation, make this album an immersive, memorable listening experience. It is an album that showcases Brooks Dixon’s growth as a songwriter and as an individual, leaving listeners eagerly anticipating where his journey will take him next.

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