Middle Brother is an amalgam of Americana – the singers of Dawes, Deer Tick, and the Delta Spirit have come together to make some music and take their show on the road. The concept for the Middle Brother tour – featuring Deer Tick and Dawes – is a loosely structured family affair. The Brothers and various guests drifted in and out, lending a hand or a voice to each others’ sets. Matt Vasquez (The Delta Spirit) sang a few songs with John J. McCauley III’s Deer Tick; Taylor Goldsmith & Dawes hosted Nashville’s Jonny Corndawg for a few tunes; a small army invaded the stage for Middle Brother’s set.
The band’s self-titled album is a good primer for their live show. Their best songs on the album are their best songs live, with the live renditions trumping their recorded counterparts in every case but one. The only letdown of the evening came with the best track off Middle Brother, “Someday”. The recorded take captures Vasquez at his finest, his vocals raw and electrified. Placed early in the set, Vasquez hadn’t yet hit his stride and didn’t leave it all on the floor like the song so desperately needs him to.
“Someday” may have left the crowd wanting, but they didn’t have to wait for long. Goldsmith, McCauley, and Vasquez’s voices blend incredibly well, and their harmonies were impeccable. “Blood and Guts” plays wonderfully live, and “Million Dollar Bill” hits all its sadness at its fullest to become one of the best songs of the set. After closing out their set with the song “Middle Brother” with Jonny Corndawg, the band and possibly every person associated with the tour came back for the encore, giving things an old-school blues jam feel. The gang chose to cover Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home to Me“, and it was the surprise highlight of the evening. They did it so successfully that they should consider pulling double-duty sets; one with original material and one as a Sam Cooke cover band.
Click either photo to see more pictures from Middle Brother’s set.
Click here for photos of Deer Tick & Dawes.
Once upon a time (in 2009), three young men from Americana-influenced rock bands came together to form an intra-genre super-group. Originally calling themselves MG&V, the men decided to take their collaboration and commit it to record. Thus Middle Brother was born, and the flannel-clad indie kids rejoiced.
Middle Brother is John J. McCauley of Deer Tick, Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, and Matt Vasquez of The Delta Spirit. Influences from each member’s band are evident throughout the record, but they meld to create a standalone sound that shows these songs aren’t just castoffs from their other endeavors.
McCauley, Goldsmith, and Vasquez rotate lead vocal duties, a treat because each has such a distinct voice. They also succeed in blending, often backing each other up with well-balanced harmonies. The most memorable vocal performance on the album, though, comes from Vasquez on the band’s nod to 60s girl-group hits, “Someday” – Vasquez’s voice is so raw and emotive that it perfectly frames the the lyrics and plays off the sugary-sweet backing ‘oohs’.
Another standout is “Blood and Guts”, probably their strongest track lyrically. Honest and brutal and a little funny, it draws sharp pictures for the listener with lines like “I just wanna get my fist through some glass / I just wanna get your arm in a cast / I just want you to know that I care.” A sad waltz of anger and apathy, it makes for a great song to listen to while setting your jaw and swilling whiskey alone in a dark corner of a bar.
Middle Brother‘s overall sound varies from bluesy rock ‘n’ roll (“Me Me Me”) to slow country ballad (“Theater”) to down-home bar band (“Blue Eyes”). For some acts, the genre-hopping could seem unfocused, but Middle Brother is able to tie it all together with a common thread. Perhaps more importantly, each song lends itself to live performance – a cornerstone of what’s made McCauley, Goldsmith, and Vasquez’s other bands so successful.
Middle Brother drops 03.01.11.
Tour dates and more at www.middlebrother.com.
On November 12th, 2010, Dawes headlined the Majestic Theater in Madison, Wisconsin. Click on any of the images below to see more photos from the show.