“Mama gave her camera to her little star/ All she gets is pictures of hotels and bars /No Big Ben, no Statue of Liberty/ Loose women and one night stands/ Kinda wish I wasn’t living in other peoples hands/ No control, no lack of shit for free”

                                                                               Middle Brother-Mom and Dad

This straight forward rocker is tucked in near the end of Middle Brother’s self-titled debut and owes a lot to the John Lennon confessional songwriting style, even riffing off of the chord progression for “God” which fittingly contrasts the narrative of lossless debauchery. Lennon’s message was “I believe in Me” while John McCauley’s storyteller wishes he hadn’t.  Yet Middle Brother is an album meant to detail all the slip-ups, to soak up all the drunk-sod stories left at a bar by the nights end. If anything, McCauley, Goldsmith, and Vasquez know that life is what happens in media res, and make no doubt about it, “Mom and Dad” is an excellent rock song, check out the download below. 

You can read more about Middle Brother’s debut album here 

Mom and Dad- Middle Brother

“Mom and Dad” is off of Middle Brother’s ‘Middle Brother’ released March 1st of 2011 by Partisan Records.

Top Ten Albums of The Year, Roots Rock Edition: Nothing Is Wrong By Dawes, Middle Brother by Middle Brother

(Taken from The Album Isn’t Overrated)

Today’s music ain’t got the same soul, I like that old kind of rock and roll

Dawes- Nothing Is Wrong

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Naturally, this is a little bit of a cheat for my top ten list, for these are two albums that are thematically linked but could stand on their own merits for deserving the top ten status.  Middle Brother is of course made up of John J. McCauley III of Deer Tick, Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, and Matt Vasquez of Delta Spirit, but to confuse you more, I’ll start with Dawes.

Back in 2009 when Taylor Goldsmith and co released their stunning debut North Hills many fell under the spell of their rootsy, classic California rock sound.  The record’s charming analog sound boosted by the bare bones recording process, the band couldn’t even afford a proper bass amp.  With the success of singles like “When My Time Comes” and “That Western Skyline”, Dawes burst onto the independant music scene, and became quick friends with rock legends like Jackson Browne and Robbie Robertson.  Yet for a band often compared to the likes of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, Dawes proved they were equally capable of crafting their own material, bouyed by Goldsmith’s succinct, yet poetic couplets that anchor each song.  

For their next LP, Dawes wanted to capture more of a live feel, songs that both reflect life on the road as well as the travels along the road of life. Their sound would also be considerably more polished than on the earthy North Hills, while keeping the same roots format. That album would become Nothing Is Wrong.

The album starts on a Jackson Browne-esque note, with the propulsive “Time Spent In Los Angeles” featuring Bennot Tenoch (of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) on the organ. Goldsmith crafts a narrative of a man reconciling his past and the road with lines like “These days my friends don’t seem to know me/ Without a suitcase in my hand/ And when I’m standing still/ I seem to disappear” “When people ask me where I’ve come from/ To see what that says about a man/ I only end up giving bad directions/That never lead them there at all.” The themes of self identity and the passage of time come up again and again in this 11 song album, but it’s to Dawes’s credit that they don’t drag.  The harmony break on “My Way Back Home” is gorgeous, fading into a great guitar solo.“Fire Away” features blistering guitar work behind a nice call and response interlude. “So Well” boasts some of the tighter vocal work on the album, and there’s something you can find you like about every song.

Goldsmith’s vocals provide a solid warmth throughout, and the interplay between him and the band is top notch (which includes his brother Griffin, on drums).  Griffin also proves to be a capable singer, leading the band on “How Far We’ve Come” and providing solid call and response vocals on “Fire Away” a song that also features Jackson Browne. “Million Dollar Bill” might contain some of the best lyrics on any song this year, both a song of longing and scorn, for which Taylor provides lines like “When it hits me that she’s gone/ I think I’ll be a movie star/ play the finest men the world has ever seen/ so when these lovers that she’s found/ show her ways they learned to talk to her/ behind each perfect word there will be a little bit of me.” Come for the music, stay for the harmonies and lyrics.

Label: ATO

Length: 51:49

Listen If You Like: The Eagles, Crosby Stills Nash, Neil Young, Jackson Browne

Mood: Driving on a Sunny Day, Sitting by a Fire at Night

Top Picks: 

“Million Dollar Bill”

“If I Wanted Someone”

“So Well”

“Fire Away”

Production: 8/10

Lyrics: 9/10

Vocals: 9/10

Overall: 9.1/10

Middle Brother- Middle Brother

Super-group is a label that is often doomed to fail, whether it’s by a lack of comraderie or just each others egos getting in the way. Middle Brother is luckily blessed to have neither problem, they just want to have fun making music.  And McCauley, Goldsmith, and Vasquez tear through a bunch of craggy folk and rock to make Middle Brother a great album to listen to.It’s not often that you can find three lead singer/songwriters sharing the spotlight and do so seemlessly (Monsters of Folk, on the other hand seemed more like a solo record by each artist rather than a cohesive effort) but this is what makes Middle Brother stand out among its 2011 peers.

McCauley has a voice that you will either love or hate, but if you happen to find yourself in the former camp (think of a gruff nasal Bob Dylan) Goldsmith and Vasquez manage to provide the perfect harmonic backing. They pull this off in spades on the album opener “Daydreaming” that features some sparkling acoustic guitar work that wouldn’t be out of place on a James Taylor record.  Elsewhere, Middle Brother pumps up the fun on tracks like “Blue Eyes” and “Me Me Me”, the latter being probably one of my favorite songs of the year, a song that never takes itself too seriously and it could have just as easily been an outtake from the John and Paul session that produced “The Ballad of John and Yoko”. Meanwhile “Someday” is a true blast from the past, featuring a 50’s melody.

“Portland” is the one cover on the album (though its to their credit that it fits organically with the rest of the material) originally done by The Replacements but once again the harmonies are terrific and the acoustic work is charming.

These songs aren’t always the rollicking type, Middle Brother likes to inhabit the more downtrodden aspects of the rock lifestyle, finding itself an equal muse to happy drunks and sad drunks. The Matt Vasquez led “Theater” finds itself sonically connected to Neil Young’s slower numbers, while Taylor Goldsmith led numbers like “Wilderness” and “Blood and Guts” describes the ravaged soul of a broken hearted man.

Overall this album is a blast, you can feel the respect the members have for this style of music, not one bit is kitchy, but a ramshakle, loving respect for true rock and roll.

Label: Partisan

Length: 48:57

Listen If You Like: Any of the members individual bands (Dawes, Deer Tick, Delta Spirit), Neil Young, The Replacements

Mood:  Visceral, Wistful, Hitting the Bottle (Both for the good and the bad)

Top Picks: 

“Daydreaming”

“Blue Eyes”

“Someday”

“Me Me Me”

“Portland”

Production: 8/10

Lyrics: 8/10

Vocals: 9/10

Overall: 8.5/10


Campfire Goes Electric: Campfire Songs Vol. 2, A Mixtape

I had so much fun making the last Campfire Songs Mixtape that I decided to make another one. Both retro and modern with that warm familial feeling that makes a campfire so fun to be around. As always, the mixtape is free but feel free to support all the artists by buying their albums. To download a song just right-click the song link after the description, hope you enjoy.  The full mixtape after the jump.

Continue reading Campfire Goes Electric: Campfire Songs Vol. 2, A Mixtape

Song(s) of the Day: Daydreaming, Me Me Me, Middle Brother, Middle Brother

Daydreaming

Me Me Me

Middle Brother

Its a rare day indeed when one finds the collective “supergroup” a ubiquitous term in music. Sure there was Cream, and Led Zeppelin, both groups who’s collective work seemed to surpass their prior musical experiences. Then too, there was the Traveling Wilburys whose mission seemed to just have fun with music and not worry about the superpowers that made up the group.  Toeing the line between these two groups is the newly formed Middle Brother, whose members include John J McCauley III (the main singer and songwriter) of Deer Tick with his trademark rasp, Taylor Goldsmith (also the main singer and songwriter) of Dawes and Matt Vasquez (who is again the main singer songwriter) of Delta Spirit.  Their debut album release is pure roots rock with some Nashville and alt country thrown in to boot.  All three are capable emotional singers in their own right, and each member brings a new feeling to the song that they sing.  Much like the Traveling Wilburys they aren’t trying to take the world by storm here, just a bunch of friends making good music, with talents equal to any supergroup out there. So just sit back, relax, and enjoy some music that brings you back to a simpler time in rock music. The downloads after the jump.

Continue reading Song(s) of the Day: Daydreaming, Me Me Me, Middle Brother, Middle Brother