Looking for the next Black Keys? They may well be here. Brother O’ Brother recently released Show Pony, an album that will surely please those looking for big drums and over-driven guitars playing blues rock from the garage.
Show Pony begins with “The Itch,” a song that would fit in the Offspring‘s setlist. A catchy guitar riff and a howling voice lead this song, setting the tone for the album. “Wolf in Sheeps Clothing” was next, beginning with musical stabs that made me think of Queens of the Stone Age. This was followed by a blues-rock guitar riff that brought me back to the Black Keys. Christ Banta howls every vocal line, delivering energetic performances filled with angst and passion, while Warner Swopes backs him up with steady drum beats. Introduced with a slow-paced groove and vocals that reminded me of Robert Plant, “White Dove” marched forward with a power complemented by furious vocals. It is worth noting that although Brother O’ Brother is a duo, there are bass parts to be heard on Show Pony. To me, bass is the “glue” in the band, and thanks to a booming kick drum, round bass, and wide guitars, this great sounding album thankfully doesn’t lack any low end.
An upbeat intro started “Your Touch” with a head-bobbing drum riff that probably gets people jumping in the crowd when it’s played live. This contrasted with the second part of the song, which was played in half time; the changing dynamics kept the music interesting. “Show Pony” opened with a rhythm that conjured memories of ZZ Top’s Eliminator, which was followed by a super groovy part that I will enjoy driving to. It’s on this song that guitarist Chris Banta turns on the reverberation; it took me by surprise, sounded great, and was a breath of fresh air in this over-driven, fuzzy soundscape. If you like ACDC, check out “You Would,” a straight-forward rock song that showcased the energy in this band. There’s also a psychedelic guitar solo if that’s your thing.
Brother O’ Brother describes their sound as “gospel indie blues garage rock” and it’s on “Heavy Stone” that I heard the gospel, thanks to a choir and lyrics like “I believe” and “I Don’t Want to Be Your Heavy Stone”. If you want to quote James Brown, you better know how to do it. Brother O’ Brother did it with “Man’s World,” a song reinterpreted with an industrial edge, sounding like a huge press slamming down on the beat. “Blood & Cigarettes” mashed a punk-like groove and a steady rock beat, transitioning between the two with ease. These guys are excellent at switching it up and keeping you hooked.
Ending with “Shelter,” Brother O’ Brother closed Show Pony with a slow blues track that highlighted Chris Banta’s guitar playing skills. Sparse instrumentation kept this song sounding intimate, and it’s brevity (clocking in at 2:27) kept it sweet. These guys rock, and though they’re all the way in Indianapolis, I hope to see them live someday.
Written by Dave Tone
*edited by Kate Erickson