Middle Brother

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I have a new musical obsession: “Blue Eyes” by Middle Brother. I learned of Middle Brother from an exceptional blog called Vintage Voltage, which described Middle Brother’s self-titled 2011 album as “the best rock & roll album to come out in the past five years.” That is quite a statement so I had to check it out. So should you.

Rather than repeat Vintage Voltage’s blog post, here’s a link to it. It gives you pertinent information, like who the heck are Middle Brother (answer: a collaboration of Dawes, Deer Tick, and Delta Spirit), as well as a probing analysis of the record. But I will offer a few additional thoughts on it.

I first have to confess that I was planning to save this post for a time when I was running short on material, the thought being I could just link to Vintage Voltage’s post and call it a day. But I can’t in good conscience keep “Blue Eyes” under wraps. Every classic rock fan needs to hear this song and this record.

“Blue Eyes” is the first tune that ever hooked me from the lead-in count of “one, two, three, four. . .,” which is followed by a twangy, country-fried opening riff that sets the tone for the mellow groove reverberating throughout the track. As Vintage Voltage describes it, “It’s the kind of mid-tempo rocker that you don’t hear much anymore outside of old Neil Young records.” Very true. To me, the tune reads like “Cripple Creek Ferry” with its plodding beat and piano-infused soul. I am always excited to hear it, no matter what my mood. It speaks to me when I’m up, down, sideways – it doesn’t matter. There are kernels of every emotion packed in the track’s rhythms and love-struck lyrics. But enough. Just listen to it.

While “Blue Eyes” constitutes the record’s high point, there are several other successful tracks as well. “Daydreaming,” which kicks off the album, is an acoustic lonely-heart gem in the spirit of the Replacements’ “Skyway.” Speaking of whom, Middle Brother includes a worthwhile cover of “Portland,” an obscure Replacements’ tune that appeared on the 1997 compilation All For Nothing/Nothing For All. “Theater” builds to an angst-riddled cry of “This life won’t tell you nothing/nothing but lies” akin to John Lennon’s gravelly wailing at the end of “Mother.” I love the spareness of “Mom and Dad,” with its simple snare and clipped, piercing guitar chords. And the album’s finale, “Million Dollar Bill,” is a beautiful, mournful ode to unrequited love, with the three singers each describing fanciful strategies to stay present “when it hits me that she’s gone.”

The record leaves you wanting more. Since this appears to be a one-off project, I’m not sure that will happen. But at least we will always have “Blue Eyes.”

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