Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Earl Brothers Impress Again

The Earl Brothers


When the Earl Brothers released their first album in 2004, the superbly-titled Whiskey, Women and Death, it was a shot of antique-sounding bluegrass in decidedly dark tones, as the recording’s name might suggest. Included on that debut disc were perhaps two of the finest original drinking songs ever recorded in the genre (“Been Sittin’ Here Drinkin” and “Bender”), as well as one of the finest and freshest takes on “Cluck Ol Hen” you’re likely to find anywhere.

Then in 2006 the band’s follow-up, Troubles To Blame, landed to a flurry of critical acclaim. The Earl Brothers had arrived and they played uncompromisingly traditional mountain music with attention-grabbing gothic undertones.

After just two offerings, a new disc from the Earl Brothers amounts to an event for a heap of bluegrass fans all over the country. In 2008, the band kept to its schedule of releasing a disc every two years with Moonshine. In it the California quartet is effectively sticking to its guns with twelve new tracks of original music.

At first listen, The Earl Brothers are easy to place. It’s gritty, gloomy, hillbilly music. This is a refreshingly simple bluegrass band that comes at the listener with no pretensions, just an honest take on life played with honest-to-God mountain music. In keeping with that theme, chief songwriter Robert Earl Davis seems uninterested in complex symbolism and extended metaphor. His formula is a simple one: See a thing, sing the thing, the thing’s the song. Consider these lines from Moonshine’s ninth track, “By the Side of the Road,” taken from the liner notes.

Billy was found by the side of the road
He wasn’t looking to good
Legs all bent from a bad accident
No one to call him there own

"By the Side of the Road" is a stand-out selection, as is the album's title track, "Moonshine" with its excellent first verse, which probably should have led off the album. Nevertheless Moonshine is thick with painful, gloomy and glorious twang that comes from another time - certainly the past, but maybe the future.

All of which amounts to pretty standard fare for an Earl Brothers album. Of course, standard fare from the Earl Brothers being as good as it is, this disc is a keeper for anyone that likes their bluegrass straight-up, with a twist of the wicked.


Anonymous said...

Surely it says:

No one to call him their own


No one to call him there own

John Louis Kerns said...

It's THERE. Taken straight from the liner notes.