On occasion we stumble upon an album or band that becomes timeless to us, one which we can put on when ever we need a retreat. It is a rare occurrence in the grand scheme of one’s music collection timeline. When you find that album, you gravitate to it without notice when you’re driving, listening on your computer, or even singing in the shower. If it happens to be a particular band, you’ve probably circled the date of their next release on your calendar and chances are you’ll be first in line when they come through on tour.
For me, this band was and is Deer Tick. The leading vocals and song stylings of John McCauley (on top of some deeply dark and powerful lyrics) rang out a lullaby to which I’d retreat to in my time of need or even just when I wanted a driving album on a warm day. Odd as it sounds, I found solace in all three albums released by this East Coast born folk rock band. After the release of The Black Dirt Session, the Deer Tick trail ran dry.
In March of 2011, Middle Brother released a self titled album born of an impromptu meeting of three genius song writers: John McCauley of Deer Tick, Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, and Matthew Vasquez of Delta Spirit. In a time when anyone living in their mom’s basement can throw down a track on their laptop and release it on the internet, a Crosby Stills and Nash like group of this quality is a rarity. As rare as it is, this should not be left by the wayside. There is a purity to be found here that only stokes the flame laid down by each band. Meeting at a crossroads of down tempo acoustic guitar and sharp vocals, Middle Brother is an intellectually charged 12 song album. Exchanging the lead vocals almost evenly from song to song, the approach taken here is quite refreshing as it offers what they’re trying to convey in an almost “jam session format”. Rather than taking the unique, but not too far out voices of Vasquez and Goldsmith, they paired up with the raspy worn voice of McCauley which offers an abstract harmony for the ages.
Walking along the road of southern folk-rock, the album doesn’t waiver much, but tends to lean on the rock side. Whether listening to the lonely ramblings of a man “Day Dreaming,” the light bluesy shuffle of “Thanks for Nothing,” or the ballad “Portland,” it’s far too easy to be lost in the simplistic – yet well articulated talents – of these three. The album exudes the evolution of men heavily influenced by the ground breaking musicians before them in “Blue Eyes,” we are offered up lyrics like: “she’s a southern girl without a drawl, she’s a good girl who wears black bra, only girl who can make me crawl, she’s too sweet to force me” in a very Neil Young-like melody.
While each continues to release music with their respective bands, this folk-rock band stands on their two feet and should spark excitement each and every time they get together, but this creates a dilemma for fans: Do we hope for the continuation of Middle Brother, leaving their respective bands behind? Do we accept this release simply as a rare aligning of the stars never to be seen again? As fans, we ultimately know we cannot have the best of both worlds, but we can beg in all of our selfishness for it to happen.