THE LOST BROTHERS – THE PASSING OF THE NIGHT
2012 - Lojinx
This is the third recording by this duo that don’t so much make duo albums as build projects. They seem to get their songs sorted out and then draw in other people to help to bring their vision to fulfillment. On this excellent album they certainly have the assistance of some talented people that include Brendon Benson as producer and various members of the Old Crow medicine show and the Cardinals. This Irish duo are Oisín Leech on vocals, guitar, percussion and whistle and Mark McCausland also on vocals, plus electric and acoustic guitars, pump organ and bass. Whilst their songwriting is very good, the real power of their music is in their quite sublime harmonies that are a match for anyone. On first listen I was thinking there were similarities to Simon and Garfunkel, but whilst they were very smooth, the Lost Brothers have at times a slightly discordant element that imbues them with more power and eeriness that is a throwback to the old days of the ‘country and western’ brother acts.
All of the songs on this album with the exception of one are written by the duo and thematically all contain far more darkness than light, with even the slightly upbeat songs seeming to have a dark atmosphere. This is mainly thanks to the incredible harmonies that clash with that darkness to produce an unusual beauty on most songs. Certainly it is those harmonies that give their music it’s signature but they don’t harmonise in a way that makes them sound like one person. There is always a separation in tone that gives them a strong individuality. There are songs that have a little glimmer of optimism but generally most of the characters seem to have abandoned all hope of redemption and indeed, any sort of future. They have a knack for taking any subject and enveloping it with a darkness that seems to come quite naturally thanks in part to their vocals, but also to the diverse instrumentation, a combination that makes them so different to anyone else around.
The instrumentation is never too dense, with even the less sparse songs having plenty of space that allows the story and the vocals to breathe. The album probably sits most comfortably under the ‘Americana’ umbrella with it’s folksy old timey evoking songs that in the main tell tales of lifes darker side. Whilst the tempos do vary a little nothing ever gets much above a sedate mid tempo for which the producer deserves great credit in recognising what will get the best out of the songs and singers. The album opens with Not Now Warden, a lovely harmony duet driven by acoustic guitar, bass and melodic twangy guitar on a sad tale of somebody in prison whose love is no longer waiting for him, told from the prisoners point of view and full of a mournful edginess that is chock full of regret. Send
Me Off To Sleep is a dark tale with a hauntingly atmospheric fiddle accompanied by deceptively light chiming guitar and the usual excellent vocals on what is another sad story, this one about someone with suicidal tendencies following a lost love and the mood darkens further with Widowmaker,
with chiming banjo, organ, fiddle, saw and uillean pipes on a quite eerie tale of a hanging! Not
everything is gloom and doom though. The Ahmet Ertegun penned Hey Miss Fannie is a speedy, just above mid tempo 1950s era old rock n’ roll song! It was originally recorded in 1955 by the Wink Westerners, who featured Roy Orbison in their lineup, and was actually suggested to the band by the Orbison estate, people who should know quality vocals when they hear them! The dreamy Blue
Moon In September is a pump organ and drums driven sad haunting tale of someone missing their lover who has passed away, with the nightmarish quality of the musical saw and steel guitar taking it so far beyond the schmaltziness that many others would have given it that it comes back around to being a tremendously evocative song.
A mood of great melancholy pervades nearly every song on this album irrespective of the amount of darkness or light in the lyrics and that in itself is something that sets this talented
duo apart from the pack. With each of their albums being entirely different I’m already impatient to see what they can come up with next.