A couple of years ago, I received an invite on Myspace from a group calling themselves the Sumner Brothers. I hit the link, figuring I’d give them at least a second or two to prove themselves. Before I knew it, I had listened to all their songs. There was something about that voice, the spare and primitive sound of the accompanying music.
Now I know how Sam Phillips felt when Johnny Cash stumbled in off the streets guitar in hand for an audition. If I had to come up with a single word to describe what I felt and heard, the word is gravity. Dense, heavy songs sucked me in, like traveling too near a black hole, I got sucked in; the Sumner brothers made me listen, made me think, made me see, made me feel. This ain’t no novel, by God, it’s non-fiction. Real, bleeding, pissing, moaning, crying, pleading, questioning, bone breaking, eye-gouging, ear-biting, down in the dirt fighting for your life kind of music, written from somewhere near total despair, but with a frightening amount of inner strength and peace despite the circumstance.
Two years have passed. I put in their CD’s and I feel that same weight. There’s a spiritual quality to the men and their songs, not some church going “ain’t Jesus wonderful kind of stuff”, but truth and in your face honesty. Embracing life on this planet as it is rather than how you’d like for it to be, yet tempered with hope and even a note of certainty that something better is yet to rise from this dark and miserable place. That justice prevails in the end. Johnny Cash had this same quality. Makes me wonder if somehow or other, these young men didn’t inherit a measure of the man’s spirit when he departed.
A jaunt through their cds is like traversing the five levels of grief associated with dying, perhaps due to the condition of the world into which they were born. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance. It’s amazing how in this day and time, one can’t really treasure life and its real treasure until he or she accepts the fact that we’re royally fucked. Because royally fucked, we are.
If you think you’ve seen or heard dark before, I challenge you to go the Sumner brother’s website and listen to Brian and his guitar, describing a true story from the war in Iraq. My blood ran cold.
Bob and Brian Sumner hail from British Columbia, Canada. They’re young, rugged looking, country boy types. No rhinestones, permed hair, polyester suits or fake cowboy hats. Looking at them, they could pass for loggers. You’ve likely never heard of them. They have a loyal following in their home territory but rarely stray far from home. I’m hoping to change that.
At the very least, I’m hoping you will give their music a listen. They have two CDs out. The first is called In the Garage. The second is a self-titled work and features better production quality than the first, but if I’m recommending, (and I am), start with the first one. It’s crude, spare, somewhat primitively produced and damned good.
I’ve done my part. Now, someone needs to figure out how to bring these boys to Texas. The Sumner Brothers will take over from there.
Don Henry Ford - The Unrepentant Cowboy