The Lonesome Brothers hail from western Massachusetts and are well into their second decade of playing together. You want to talk "hard working"? Guitarist/songwriter Jim Armenti also plays multiple instruments with a local klezmer band, Klezamir, and bass player / songwriter Ray Mason has been concurrently leading the Ray Mason Band during the same period. Drummer Tom Shea is a guitarist in Mason's other band as well.
With all this experience, what can you expect but the very best in roots rock and soulful alt-country crooning? And that's what the Lonesome Brothers deliver on their current release,
Pony Tales. From the first few twangs of "Crossing with the Cuckoo," I knew that this was going to be one of the good ones. It's a rollicking train-ride of a number, enhanced by Armenti's jangle-pop guitar chords. That would normally seem out of place in a back-to-basics band of this type, but with the Lonesomes, eclecticism is the norm.
"Crossing" is followed by Mason's "The Drinking Side," with a nice slide guitar piece by Doug Beaumier to lighten up the demanding yet supportive declaration, "Don't you slide back to the drinking side." Another standout, "Next Time," is a lovely work of longing, marred only by Armenti's attempt to sing above his range. Meanwhile Mason has great fun with his bass line in "Old Rails Rust."
Next, "Queen of Where I Go" features a great boogie-woogie piano line from producer Jim Weeks that raises this one above the fray. Other standout tracks on
Pony Tales come in the form of the mandolin-enhanced "Almost Had You" and the -- one could almost say "orchestrated" but that would detract from the pure, powerful improvisation of it -- dumpster-diving anthem, "Dumbstruck at the Dumpster," with lines like "One belt of Skin Bracer and, oh, my breath is sweet." As is the case with many albums, the Lonesome Brothers have made sure to put their best feet forward and things slow down from here. The rest of the album is good, just not a stellar as these first six tunes.
All in all,
Pony Tales is a solid effort from a band of guys that sound as if they are having the time of their lives. The fact that they are still able to make such quality good-time music is a testament to a raw talent that has been polished over the years. My only regret is that it has taken me this long to discover the music of the Lonesome Brothers -- and now I'm going to go and make up for lost time!
This review originally appeared in somewhat different form on
The Green Man Review. Copyright 2002. Reprinted with permission.
Lonesome Brothers: Pony Tales
Hick rock that smells like diesel.
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