- New American Farmers
- Brand New Day
Big Barncat Records
There’s a pleasant sort of disorientation that comes with listening to New American Farmers’ Brand New Day. There are a number of times throughout the album’s 11 tracks when your head’s going to snap around and your brain’s going to tell you that you know that song – even though it’s the first time you’ve ever heard it.
Right off the bat, “Everywhere” frigs with you in the nicest of ways: the grinning banjo bounce and the easy glide of the harmony vocals are as vintage Byrds as The Byrds could be – not an imitation, you understand, but that vibe … Of course, some of that can’t help but happen: that’s the legendary Gene Parsons playing that banjo, boys and girls – a Byrdman himself from ‘68 to ’72. But those harmonies? Those are straight from the throats and hearts of New American Farmers’ core duo, Paul Michael Knowles and Nicole Storto. Vocal weaves like this are a gift to hear; Storto and Knowles dole ‘em out left and right all through Brand New Day.
Other brain-benders include the title track, which combines George Harrison-style slide guitar with lyrics that could have come out of John Hiatt’s little spiral notebook. (That would be David Walker on the sweet slide, by the way.) “Hypocrite” sets its hooks in you early à la All Shook Down -era Replacements with smart smart-ass lyrics and rocking swagger. Was “Open Arms” originally on T Rex’s Electric Warrior – wild-ass guitar squall and all? Nope: it’s a Great American Farmers original. “Good And Sober” takes a shimmering chicka-boom Johnny Cash rhythm and a big helping of them aforementioned harmonies and makes getting straightened out seem like a decent option.
And then there’s “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head”, which is a cover – of a Jeff Lynne tune, whose Electric Light Orchestra made a living in the 70s and 80s pondering the possibilities of what might have come of the Beatles and Phil Spector getting really weird together. Here, however, the Farmers keep it simple and tasty.
In the end, it matters not if you’re too young to understand any of the references above. Knowles and Storto are simply excellent song crafters – and even though they’re working with a revolving cast of players throughout Brand New Day, the album has a cohesive feel throughout. And there are songs that won’t remind you of anyone, as well: the theme of “Sad Hotel” begs for a moving van load of clichés, but here it’s just a good piece of writing delivered with lovely heartache (aided by Dave Zirbel’s pedal steel). Ara Anderson’s trumpet offers South-of-the-border seasonings to “Don’t Wait For Me Here” (“The hour has come/I must be departing my dear/I’ll send for you soon/When I know the way is clear” sings the song’s uh, hero. Right …)
In short, it’s apparent that Knowles and Storto can crank out just about any sort of tune that they have a mind to. And luckily for us they’ve captured a bunch of them on Brand New Day.
Brian Robbins sometimes gets pleasantly disoriented over at www.brian-robbins.com