Saturday, June 13, 2020

CD Odyssey Disc 1376: The Brother Brothers

I’m just back from a lovely brunch downtown with my lovely wife, and with a full belly and a warm heart, it is the perfect time to do a little writing. Here it is!

Disc 1376 is…. Some People I Know
Artist: The Brother Brothers

Year of Release: 2018

What’s up with the Cover? Too much sun or too much beer? Yes.

In all seriousness, while this drinking establishment looks like a dump, it does come with a ship picture, and I’m a sucker for a ship picture. Also, while these are not some people I know, they look like nice folks all the same.

How I Came To Know It: I’m not 100% sure. I think I read a review of them, or maybe it was just following a list of weekly releases on my favourite site for musical discovery (Paste Magazine). Paste brings me a lot of great leads, but hopefully your favourite site for musical discovery is this one.

How It Stacks Up: I only have this one Brother Brothers album, so it can’t really stack up.

Ratings: 4 stars but almost 5

The Brother Brothers are the musical equivalent of a summer afternoon spent sitting in the shade of a tree by some back-country lake, nothing but some filtered sunlight, birdsong and your own idle thoughts to keep you company.

This is folk music at its most relaxed. The brothers Moss (not just actual brothers, but identical twins) take it slow, letting these songs lightly lilt along, telling simple tales of love and loss that swell in your heart in a meditative ways that borders on the mystical.

There’s something about siblings singing harmonies that always seems to work. Adam and David Moss are the apogee of the experience, singing in two high airy tenors that blend seamlessly together.

In addition to their feathery vocals, they are also exceptional musicians. There isn’t anything complex going on, but the tone of the violin, the banjo (both Adam) and guitar (David) drip with rich textures. Their playing is like a home cooked country dinner; simple fare cooked to perfection that leaves you full and content.

The album opens with “Mary Ann” a heart worn tale of regret for past misdeeds, and the hope that a relationship can be salvaged, even as the narrator admits he has no right to ask for such a benediction:

“Mary Ann, I’m back on my feet again
I know I don’t deserve it
Call me up some time
Until you do, I’ll do me, and you do you
I’m not the type to see it through
But I’m gonna try.”

This is one of music’s all time great “I screwed up and I’m sorry” songs, and despite never ever getting specific about what went wrong, you get a strong sense of the tortured soul making the ask.

On “Banjo Song,” the brothers bemoan losing the joy in creating music, answering the song’s opening question of “Why don’t you play the banjo anymore?” with:

I’ll tell you boy, why I don’t play no more
Out of tune, discarded instruments
Don’t play like once they did before
That’s why I don’t play it anymore.”

Of course, even while invoking a spirit of loss, those lines aren’t accurate to the song, which features some truly inspired banjo playing from Adam Moss.

In terms of style, the brothers fall strongly in the traditions of Americana folk music, with a trill that mixes Texas and Appalachia, but there are also strong currents of Celtic fiddle and a fair bit of that urban New York Greenwich Village sound that evokes the spirit of early Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel. There is even subtle hints of saxophone that had me thinking favourably of Leonard Cohen. The effect is timeless and enchanting.

This is the Brother Brothers only full-length album (they also have an earlier EP I’m on the hunt for) and I’m looking forward to where their sound goes next. They have a strong grasp of the many folk music traditions, and a natural knack for blending them into something uniquely their own. I am looking forward to what they do next. In the meantime “Some People I Know” is going to get a lot of airplay around the house.

Best tracks: Mary Ann, Banjo Song, Frankie, Colorado, Angel Island, Ocean’s Daughter, Goodbye Ol’ Silver

1 comment:

Katrina said...

I am loving this duo - thanks for the recommendation!! Katrina