Having already established himself as a touring artist to watch, Brett Dennen is hoping to take his recorded-music career to the next level with the Oct. 21 release of "Hope for the Hopeless" (Dualton

Having already established himself as a touring artist to watch, Brett Dennen is hoping to take his recorded-music career to the next level with the Oct. 21 release of "Hope for the Hopeless" (Dualtone/Downtown). First single "Make You Crazy" features Afrobeat scion Femi Kuti.

The pairing was orchestrated by Downtown head Josh Deutsch, whose company publishes Kuti's music. "He's been wanting to break me into a mainstream format, but to also break Femi that way as well," Dennen says. "When he heard me demo the song, he was like, 'Man, I hear Femi on this. I was like, 'How are you going to get Femi Kuti?' He says, 'Well, I happen to publish him.' So we met in the studio -- he flew in from Lagos [Nigeria] to be a part of the record."

Kuti's appearance crowns an album that finds Dennen moving away from the "wholesome-sounding, Americana singer/songwriter" sounds of 2006's "So Much More," which has sold more than 80,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

"It's all over the map, but the vocal and the narrative is a good common thread between all of it," Dennen says. "The grooves are heavier and it's way more direct."

The artist, who is distinguished by his red hair and lanky six-foot-five-inch frame, admits he's still getting comfortable in the studio, owing to having spent so much time on the road in the past four years. Most recently, he served as the supporting artist on John Mayer's summer amphitheater tour.

"I learned early on as an artist that the one sure thing that'd get me to where I want to be is touring," he says. "Some people can score a radio hit or get a song in a movie or TV show, but you can't bank on that. You can bank on playing shows and winning a crowd over. I've been touring nonstop and getting more comfortable, and now I can do a show with a bigger band and make it more of an experience."

Dennen is also just as in demand as a solo performer, and he plans to reward hardcore fans with a one-man-band club tour in the fall.

"Brett is a textbook example that great songs, great musicianship and great personality win with the live music fan," veteran Denver-area promoter Don Strausburg says. "His ticket sales increase exponentially on every trip to Colorado. He has gone from the smallest clubs to theaters in short time. We're absolutely certain this sales pattern will continue."