self-titled – The McCloskey Brothers Band
Sunny On Top Records 6167
We’ve been hearing a lot of bluegrass lately. When I receive an album in
the mail of a quartet that features mandolin, banjo, drums, and bass, I
usually get hit with a normal wave of skepticism. Let’s face it, a lot of
bands are doing the roots thing these days, but only a small
fraction are pulling off with grace. I popped the CD in my player, cranked
up and upon hearing the first notes said only one thing: "Oh my God!"
Sudden blasts of religious piety don’t strike me all that frequently, but if
is going to happen, music is almost always the catalyst. In this case, it
was the McCloskey Brothers Band who brought a little bit of heaven down
to earth with their highly-driven, bluegrass rockers.
In order to play music with this much tenacity, it is important to not only
have good drumming, but great drumming. Dan Menchy takes the role in
TMBB with respectably force. It is Menchy who keeps the musical freight
train moving forward at all times, and gives such ample space for the
other musicians to fall into their respective grooves.
The first track, "Together Home", comes out like a tornado running from a
hurricane. The tune starts with a bar or two of percussive conversation
between Menchy and mandolinist Todd McCloskey, who – at first – beats his
instrument with the rhythmic fervor of Sam Bush. Many highly rhythmic
mandolinist pickers can’t cover the high end when it is their turn to solo.
Not McCloskey. After the first highly-charged verse he takes a solo bound
to give most mandolinists vertigo. The notes pour out in an effortless
barrage of clearly and quickly played bullets.
Brother David McCloskey is no less of a musician. If only my
household had the musical genetics of some families. David is a fine
banjo picker who plays a largely rhythmic role in the band. His phrasing
isn’t terribly creative but he manages to drench the music with banjo
raindrops with awesome consistency. Some banjo players go out on a
limb, others just keep it flowing. David McCloskey is a easily a member of
the second group. He never misses a note as a banjoist, and also keeps
the band grooving on guitar and even a little Hammond Organ.
Bassist Steve Rosebloom frequently rocks the songs on their hinges. I
imagine his playing being as suitable in a newgrass combo as it would
be in say death rock. When TMBB are locked, it is an airtight seal.
The vocals provided by Menchy and both McCloskey Brothers are strong
and well harmonized but the lyrics do suffer at times. They make me
scrunch my nose, not because they proverbially stink, but because they
make the cutsie-wootsie, lovie-dovie side of my half-hippie self sick to my
tofu-filled stomach. I am always a little standoffish when a band makes
drastic life changing recommendations in their music. TMBB does it a
little too often by suggesting that I "sit back and find your peace," "read
between the lines and dream," "close your eyes and think of where you
will be," "close your eyes and shut them out." One tune actually goes
"Move me up through the clouds of love/Follow the moon on a shooting
star." All of these ideals are a little too lofty for me to handle but, then
again, at least it’s not Kang. To their credit, the liner notes are complete
and well put together with some awesome nature photography provided
by John Russell.
My only fear is that TMBB has played gigs in my town and I have missed
them due to either ignorance or drunkenness. I know that I will certainly
keep my ears open for this quartet. They blend so many different artists
into the massive salad bar of up-and-coming acoustic music. Check ‘em
out soon, and when you do, be sure to play it loud.