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.