Saturday, September 28, 2013

Brothers and Sisters: Jessica

Allman Brothers Band: Jessica

I confess that right from the start of the “Brothers” theme, I had this album in mind – with the hopes that I would get around to it and that maybe no one else would get there before me.
Back in the ‘70s, I attended a college in the South (of the US, of course) that had hosted the Allman Brothers at about the time of their rise to fame (Atlanta not being too far from Greensboro, NC). I wish I had been there then because I had already been listening to their music when I was in high school (Idlewild South anyone?). I was also already a die-hard Clapton fan, which has made Derek and the Dominoes an eternal favorite (Duane Allman + Eric Clapton = made in  heaven)
The Allman Brothers’ <Brothers and Sisters> album came out in ’73, shortly after the death of the band’s lead guitarist Duane Allman. You probably know that Allman’s death was more or less quickly followed by the death of bassist Berry Oakley – in curiously similar circumstances. However, Oakley is credited and played on the Brothers and Sisters album that this clip is taken from.
Following Duane’s death, Richard “Dickey” Betts assumed the lead guitar position – less flamboyant than the lost Allman brother, but a highly competent guitarist in that he was the second guitarist of the band's original double lead guitar setup.
The photos that make up the album covers are “brothers” and “sisters” shots of the band members’ kids: I do wonder how much they still feel like siblings all these many years later. (Those were special years for those of us who were here back then, so I assume the bonds from this still tie them together somehow).
The clip I located (with the best video  that I could locate - and a live version to boot) is from well beyond the Duane Allman era, but it retains the essence of the original. You’ll see Dickey Betts on guitar and Greg Allman at the keyboard.
And so … on to <Sisters> …

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Brothers: The Celtic Soul Brothers

Dexys Midnight Runners: The Celtic Soul Brothers

Here’s a little blatant self-promotion, which happens to fit the current theme. Over on Cover Me, I wrote a piece called “In Defense: Dexys Midnight Runners” about a band that I think has been wrongfully maligned over the years and pigeonholed as a “one hit wonder” because of the success of “Come on Eileen.” So, if you haven’t already, check out that piece—I think it is a good one.

What made Dexys interesting was their mix of soul and Celtic sounds, with the proportion of each differing depending on the makeup of the band, which was constantly changing, mostly due to leader Kevin Rowland’s whims and his apparently infinite ability to alienate his fellow band members. In many ways, this song, the first recorded by the more Celtic-sounding lineup featured on the Too-Rye-Ay album which contained “Eileen,” is like a manifesto of intent.

Supposedly, the song was the inspiration for the book, and later movie, The Commitments. If you saw the movie, you probably still remember the incredible performance by the lead singer Andrew Strong, who was only 16 at the time, but had an amazing, soulful voice. It seemed that his potential was unlimited, but despite some commercial success, his career never took off. Also in the film was Glen Hansard, better known for the movie (and play) Once, and the song “Falling Slowly.” Here’s a clip of Celtic soul brothers Strong and the Commitments doing the classic “Mustang Sally.”

Monday, September 23, 2013

Brothers: Jesse McReynolds & Charles Whitstein: Remember Me

Jesse McReynolds & Charles Whitstein: Remember me


I must admit that a favorite album which I regularly put back into rotation is “A Tribute to Brother Duets” from Jesse McReynolds and Charles Whitstein.  
What’s interesting is that this entire 37-minute collection draws from repertoire of many famous traditional country brother duets from yesteryear.  Classic songs come from such brother acts as The Delmores, Wilburns, Morrises, Louvins, Monroes, Stanleys, Yorks, Bailes, and Bollicks (Blue Sky Boys). These are the brother acts which influenced McReynolds and Whitstein and continue to inspire other artists today.

The album has many old favorites like "When I Stop Dreaming," "What Would You Give (in Exchange For Your Soul)?," "Rose of my Heart," "The White Dove," "Blues Stay Away From Me," "Kentucky," "Remember Me (When the Candlelights are Gleaming) and "Are You Missing Me?" The two also cover a few less commonly heard duets such as "Somebody Loves You Darling," "That's All I Want From You," and "Which One Is To Blame?"
Jesse McReynolds (born in 1929) recently turned 84.  Charles Whitstein is a little younger, born in 1945. Both of them spent many years performing with their own brothers. From Virginia, Jim & Jesse have released over fifty albums and joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1964. From Louisiana, The Whitstein Brothers (Bob & Charles) were once called “the second-coming of the Louvin Brothers” by Charlie Louvin.

Sadly, Robert Whitstein passed away on November 14, 2001, and Jim McReynolds passed on in December 31, 2002 (only two weeks after his wife had died).
While both surviving brothers were greatly saddened by their losses, they endured and bounced back by forming their own duo. The only new song on their album, "Gone But Not Forgotten," written by Jesse, opened with a touching tribute to their deceased brothers.

Besides Jesse (mandolin, mandolobro) and Charles (guitar), the rest of the musicians are Dave Salyers (lead guitar), Charlie Cushman (guitar), Glen Duncan (fiddle), and Kent Blanton (bass).  As they sing in "Gone but Not Forgotten," Jesse and Charles vow to "do their best," and they've proven that they can create strong and close harmony together that pays homage to their departed brothers.