THE HARMED BROTHERS – COME MORNING
2012 - Lackpro Records
This excellent four piece band are blessed with two vocalists just about as good as any band in roots music can boast of and with perfect harmonies to match. They play music that has, as the predominant instrument, a banjo and yet
the album is as alt. country as they come, and in the truest sense, being at times mellow of sound but strong lyrically and with an understated power and an
atmospherically raw sound. Classic alt. country in other words, despite consisting of an all acoustic instrumentation, but without ever venturing into bluegrass or old timey, perhaps ‘folksy alt. Country’?
This is an unusual album in the respect that it was recorded twice thanks to the comings and goings of band members and disputes that would have made lesser bands call it a day. So was it worth all that trouble? They obviously think so and my feeling is that so will anyone else hearing this album and probably by the end of the first song. The band consists of Ray Vietti on guitar, lead vocals, tenor Ukulele, Alex Salcido on banjo, also lead vocals, piano and guitar, Zach Kilmer, upright bass and Ben Kilmer on drums, with all of the songs being band co writes with the exception of Willie T. Taylor’s The Very Best.
As soon as I hear a banjo I tend to warm towards an album, and yet, there are times on this recording when the banjo sound can be a little too upfront, with the rest of the instrumentation (of which there is of necessity relatively little!) seemingly relegated to a supporting roll, as a consequence making the sound a little too repetitive. Despite that this is a very good, well played album with some good songs, although the real strength of their sound is those tremendous lead and harmony vocals. There is an occasional high lonesomeness to some of the songs but the feeling is more one of a wide open spaciness, giving it a live feel, added to by those vocals and the quite sparse instrumentation. The playing is always good but there is just that nagging thought that whenever there appears to be a solo it is invariably the banjo, perhaps the addition of a fiddle might have helped? Maybe it’s just the way the album is mixed or the naturally chiming banjo sound that forces it forwards, although this is a minor complaint that shouldn’t detract from what is an extremely good, well planned and executed album. As I’ve already said, I love the sound of a banjo and many will see the dominance of that instrument as a bonus rather than a weak point!
There are some really strong melodies and excellent lyrics that stay with you long after the album has finished playing, emphasized by those excellent vocals and the generally restrained
playing that allows the vocals the space they need. The songs range from slow moody ballads to a lively mid tempo and there is certainly not anyone else I can think of to compare them to, so there is an element of individuality to their music as well.
Album opener State of Kansas, is a nice banjo driven ballad that perfectly catches the forlorn lost love feel as the story teller sets out with the intention of perhaps winning back his lost love, whilst Oh the Glory is again banjo led but with acoustic guitar equally balanced on a strong but easy loping country song that has a high lonesome sound with great lead and harmony vocals. Beast of the North West is a mid tempo song that has a ‘highlonesomeness’ (but a world away from bluegrass!) and a driving rawness of sound and theme. A Letter to Lisa is probably the catchiest song so far with the usual excellent vocals and banjo, with acoustic guitar and bass providing good support and album closer 1951 steps out of character with a beautifully sparse vocal and piano only ballad.
Overall this is a terrific album that is close to being exceptional and really gives them something to build on for the future, which if they can keep this lineup together should be rosy!