The Cash Brothers,
A Brand New Night
(Rounder/Zoe, 2003)

Wow! This is a great album.

I guess the first order of business should be to declare that I couldn't be entirely objective in this review. I moved to Toronto in 1982 and quickly became aware of a powerful punk band called L'Etranger whose lead singer/guitarist was a dynamic, literate, passionate musician named Andrew Cash. Over the next five years, whenever the opportunity arose, I went to see the band command the stage in bars around town. And through my work on a television series called The NewMusic, I did what little I could to help L'Etranger get noticed.

L'Etranger released three independently produced EPs, but the band finally split without getting its big break. Then Island Records founder Chris Blackwell came calling and, armed with a freshly minted international recording contract, Andrew embarked on a solo career.

Meanwhile younger brother Peter was having some homegrown success with his country-rock band the Skydiggers. But neither Andrew's nor Peter's musical endeavors ever managed to capture the public imagination to the extent that makes record executives enthusiastic about ongoing support. Music is in the Cash blood, however, with or without record label backing. So when Peter left the Skydiggers in 1996, it was perhaps inevitable that he and Andrew would end up collaborating.

Again there were a couple of independent recordings before the 2001 album How Was Tomorrow got wider distribution and brought the Cash Brothers to the attention of critics and alt-country fans far and wide. And while mainstream radio seemed determined to ignore this talented duo, you should definitely not follow suit. Get on the Cash Brothers bandwagon and discover "the sharp edge beneath the serene surface" that the London Daily Mirror determined was "a worthy investment."

The new album A Brand New Night broadens the musical scope of the songs, embracing a rockier sound and wedding it to the Cash Brothers' more countrified roots. "Give Me Your Hips" recalls the raw sexuality of Joe Cocker's rendition of "You Can Leave Your Hat On." "It's Too Late to Say Goodbye" blends the stark beauty of the brothers' overlapping, gritty vocals to an equally gritty narrative of "a boy with a gun in (his) hand." But "Shadow of Doubt" is the standout cut for me thanks to its combination of layered guitars and evocative lyrics... "I've got the howling wind and an empty train station, garbage arranged in military formation, I heard the news and what the billboards shout, but I'm left here standin' with this shadow of doubt."

No "Shadow of Doubt" about it, A Brand New Night is terrific. It's tight without being studio slick. The rough-hewn edges in the vocals haven't been ground away in a misguided attempt to pretty up the production. The result is the kind of ragged perfection found in the bark of an old, burled oak. So do yourself a favor, add A Brand New Night to your music library and discover what the Cash Brothers have to offer.

- Rambles
written by Gregg Thurlbeck
published 27 March 2004

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