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I recently moved back to Halifax and one of the best things about coming home after 8 years is the chance to be around my dad again. Unbeknown to him, he helped shape my musical tastes with his obsession with Willie Nelson, George Jones (we shared the same haircut), Merle Haggard and Al Green. My childhood memories involve long car rides fueled by the sadness of these terrific artists, despite my constant attempts to throw hip hop into the ole tape deck.
Years later, I can finally appreciate the music he loves and find myself looking through his stacks of records whenever I head over to see him and mom. While you might think that introduction is odd, after hearing the new record by Surrey, British Columbia’s The Sumner Brothers, I’m taken back to those childhood car rides.
The Sumner Brothers (Brian and Bob) do a remarkable job of bridging the gap between past and present. Even the most stringent Willie Nelson fan would be challenged to find fault in songs like Yea Blue and Say you’ll always be mine and the steady as a freight train rhythm of Liar Liar certainly make a listener think of the man in black, but The Sumner Brothers are more than just a trip to the past. Like a precious few bands making great music today (The Avetts and The Felice Brothers come to mind), the Sumners are able to put their own spin on the sounds that influence their music. Replacing acoustic with electric guitar helps, but it the shots of well placed energy that help keep this album moving.
The Sumner Brothers are at their best when the heartache of depression and desolation reaches critical mass, but they control the record well. Spiking tracks with anger filled strums (Both Back) or honky tonked, full band foot stompers (Girl in the Window), they seem to be able to comfort you in your search for the bottom of your beautiful bottle (Pain, Stone Hearted Lover), make you sway with long bending steel notes (the epic Ticket to Ride) and still make you sweat as you hoist pint glasses on the dance floor.
I’m not sure how I never heard of this band when I lived in Vancouver, but I’m certainly sad to know they played shows in my neck of the woods and I never had the chance to see them. This self-titled record may not be for everyone, but for country roots fans, the emotion and gruff harmonies they deliver on the beautiful My Words are just the thing to fuel your isolation as rain, snow and red wine take over from sun, smiles and patio drinks.