Bros Landreth – Come Morning
July 1 was Canada Day, presumably to ensure Canadians get to celebrate in the same period of the year as the Americans mark their Independence. Canadian country music is its own world, with some crossover acts including Anne Murray, Terri Clark, Lindsay Ell and that woman who wasn’t much impressed.
Bros Landreth are two brothers from Canada, David and Joey, who bumped into Bob Harris in Nashville and handed him a CD. Bob loved it and started playing them, ensuring them a UK audience. They’ll be back this September to tour their third album – with nine UK dates including, impressively, Shepherd’s Bush Empire – to crowds who love their folky country music.
The album was self-produced with longterm buddy Murray Pulver who has since worked with UK acts including Katy Hurt and The Jackson Line. I’m sure I’m not the first writer to make the Paul Young or Ron Sexsmith comparisons but that is what I hear throughout the album. The brothers call it ‘heart-on-your-sleeve songwriting’.
The six-minute Drive All Night is a wistful reminiscin’ song with some funky keyboards. It would definitely fall under my invented genre Bob Harris Country, which welcomes music with harmonies, expert production and a mood that makes the song segue from or into music of any genre at all. This is boundless music.
It is full of empathy which the arrangements reflect: there’s some steel guitar on Shame (‘pride came before the fall’), some wire-brushed drums on You Don’t Know Me and the addition of harmonies from Leith Ross on the stoical and magnificent Don’t Feel Like Crying.
Corduroy, beyond its title, is also a great song which is indebted to 70s soul and has a marvellous final minute of guitar’n’organ bliss. The title track sounds like a lullaby that Ron Sexsmith could knock up on a half-hour walk after dinner, while the brothers even get away with calling the final and wryly comic track Back To Thee (‘take mine eyes, I don’t need them to see/ the most beautiful one splits my rent with me’).
Testament to their calibre is that Luke Combs’ producer Jonathan Singleton was in the room to write a pair of tracks: the fluttering ballad What In The World (‘would I do without you’) and After The Rain, a pretty melody which reflects the optimism that the world will be different and there will be dancing and fun after the struggle. The final minute is one of the best on record all year. I won’t spoil the thrill. Just listen.
Orville Peck – Bronco
Testament to Orville’s calibre is the presence of Jay Joyce on production for his third project. Jay has carved the sound of Eric Church and Ashley McBryde, which puts Orville in esteemed company. His third project, following the album Pony and the six-track mini-album Show Pony, is released on the famous Sub Pop label, which is now a subsidiary of Columbia Records.
Indeed, he released the album in three tranches of five tracks this spring and is out on tour this summer in Australia and his present home of Canada. Orville is the openly gay singer who grew up in South Africa who wears a tasselled facemask when he performs, with a voice that echoes through the ages like a cross between fellow Canadian Colter Wall and Johnny Cash. He has spoken of wanting to be a ‘David Bowie of country’, using his training in performance.
Trample Out The Days actually reminds me a little bit of Cher. Orville has already covered songs by Lady Gaga and kd lang, and I can hear any of those acts covering the torch ballad Let Me Drown, the album’s big bit of catharsis with a string section which Columbia Records must have greenlit. Orville has admitted to being depressed before he worked on Bronco, which he used as therapy.
There is no sign of the sadness in the musical aspect of Outta Time, which quotes Elvis Presley’s A Little Less Conversation and is driven by a great groove which reflects the line in the chorus about ‘heading down the PCH’, the Pacific Coast Highway in California. Elvis and Phil Spector seem to be influences on the grandiose C’mon Baby Cry, while the electrifying trio Lafayette, Any Turn and the album’s title track are driven by rockabilly drums.
Joyce’s production brings out the outlaw spirit of songs like Hexie Mountains – where the reverb on Orville’s voice is a literal echo of the rocks – Iris Rose (which has dustings of horn) and the smart Kalahari Down. That last song sets a Western tune in Africa, opening with a few bars of reverbed harmonica and including the strings again. Blush is a sun-drenched chugger set in London with the opening line ‘Red sky in morning, still thinking of courtin’ you’. I forgot that Orville was singing about men, and his career will be fascinating to watch, not just for the reasons of a man singing about a man in country music.
Closing track All I Can Say was co-written with Bria Salmena, who takes the first verse and chorus: ‘All I can say is goodbye’ was obvious from the start of the song as the lyric, which closes the album with the same tenor that came before it. It’s a winning formula.