It’s been a long, hard road to success for North Carolina songwriter Aaron Burdett. Although he has an extensive catalog of critically-acclaimed recordings — not to mention his share of national song-writing competition honors — it took the recent success of his bluegrass-flavored “Rockefeller,” which climbed the charts and lingered there for most of 2020, to repay his persistence and make him a new discovery for roots music fans.
The same working-class sensibility and wry humor that animated “Rockefeller” pervades “Loser’s Bracket,” Burdett’s latest release for Organic Records. “I’m the kind of man that every woman wants,” the narrator claims over Burdett’s guitar and ringing mandolin from band member Daniel Ullom — before giving his own boast the lie as he adds, “And I’ve a mind to find one, when I sober up.” The lines gain added piquancy with bassist Kim France’s deftly-placed harmonies, leading into the song’s irresistibly hooky first chorus before guest banjo player Derek Vaden (Larry Stephenson Band) adds the last element to fill out the song’s now-grassy arrangement.
But even though the beginning of the choruses find the singer ironically confessing the limits of his aspirations — “the top of the loser’s bracket is as good as I’m gonna get” — the songwriter’s ability to find grace shines through by the end, as he recognizes his “hard times and good times [are] intertwined and yet, I count ‘em all as blessings and I’ll take what I can get.” The juxtaposition, given room to breath as Vaden and Ullom split a deliciously idiomatic solo section, is a quintessential slice of Burdett’s songwriting, and of his down-to-earth approach to life.
"’Loser's Bracket’ is an unusual song for me, in that it came together without any trouble or extended effort,” Burdett notes. “Songs usually take me a long time to reason out and consider and edit and re-edit. I think I heard someone use the title phrase; I wrote it down and the tune more or less wrote itself. I gleaned the chorus from somewhere out in the real world and shook it a few times and the verses fell right out—no extras, just the right amount, from wherever it is that songs are born. This song might be a product of the same 1930's or 1940's character who inhabits the ‘Rockefeller’ song, I'm not sure. Every song is different, and the most unique characteristic of this song is how it showed right up at my door and invited itself in.”
For long-time fans, “Loser’s Bracket” will be another welcome addition to his catalog — and for listeners who have only recently discovered his work, the new single serves notice that Aaron Burdett’s unexpected hit was no fluke.