March 9, 2011

Test Spin: Middle Brother

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Three talents come together to form Middle Brother.

With all the side-projects and collaborative albums that have been released over the last few years, the term “super-group” has lost some of its allure. And yet, that didn’t stop Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, John McCauley of Deer Tick, and Matthew Vasquez of Delta Spirit from forming Middle Brother.

The three have been friends for several years but, after a joint tour in 2009, they decided to turn their friendship into a creative partnership. Taking residen­ce in Nashville, the trio began crafting an album that is both current and steeped in the history of American Rock.

Developed atypically, Middle Brother’s self-titled debut album sees the three musicians divvying up songwriting and vocal responsibilities. Each member of the band has about four songs to work with, but from the opening notes of “Daydreaming,” it’s clear that the recording process was synergetic. The harmonies are substantive, and help to distinguish this record from the trios’ work with their respective bands.

Of the three, Goldsmith’s lyrics are the strongest. From the stripped arrangement of “Wilderness” to the sentimentality of “Thanks For Nothing,” he has a penchant for writing weary ballads about isolation that the other two simply don’t. Still, McCauley and Vasquez each get their chance to shine on “Me, Me, Me” and “Someday,” respectively.

Honestly, the only flaw with Middle Brother is that the guys didn’t trade vocal responsibilities more within songs. The album’s two strongest numbers are not so coincidentally the two in which they do take turns singing lead. “Middle Brother,” a fun number that features Jonny Corndawg and stellar percussion, is the trio’s most upbeat offering and likely their most exciting live, while “Million Dollar Bill” pretty much encapsulates everything that’s wonderful about Middle Brother into one song.

Original Author: Wesley Ambrecht