Lonesome Brothers,
Swamptown Girl
(Captivating, 2001)

Lonesome Brothers -- Jim Armenti, Ray Mason and Bob Grant, who have been together since 1986 -- join forces with Doug Beaumier, Jim Weeks and Thomas Major for Swamptown Girl, their third release. Lonesome Brothers' songs have quirky lyrics that reflect the equally quirky vocal stylings of Armenti and Mason. Tracks like "A Way Out of No Way" and "Reverend Mr. Hooper" tell rather odd narratives that are strange yet entertaining. The quirky vocal styles add to these narratives, giving them an everyday kind of accessibility. Armenti's and Mason's voices have a whiny inflection that give Lonesome Brothers' unique sound an interesting edge. Check out Mason's chalkboard scratching on "Disconnection" -- that kind of note-grasping actually fits their style and is quite entertaining.

"Chains" is the best example of the band's quick and quirky songs. Armenti's vocals aptly reinforce the image with references to fast cars and streaking like shooting stars. While the vocals are quite good, they can't keep up with the guitars on this song. Toward the end, Armenti simply gives up and lets the guitars go wild.

While most of the songs have a faster pace, the two best songs on Swamptown Girl are slower. "Reckless World" and "She's Not That Way With Fireworks" keep a focused stride. The snail's-paced "Reckless World" is a wonderful ballad with great lyrics and a smooth accordion. The imperfections of Armenti's vocals reinforce the song's mood, with the feeling of "dragging behind" and "losing my mind" in a reckless world.

"She's Not That Way With Fireworks," despite the silly title, is a sad song about a girlfriend who must be cheating. Grant's gentle percussion sets the tone for Mason's sadness and hurt. Again, the lyrics are out of the ordinary, as she is wearing a "cheatin' pair of shoes," but the mood of the song is very familiar to anyone who has felt betrayed.

Swamptown Girl is a very good recording. Lonesome Brothers have a peculiar and original style on the album that never loses its focus, be it musically or lyrically. Their sound has a back-door accessibility that is rather welcoming and familiar. Hopefully, Lonesome Brothers will continue in this vein.

[ by C. Nathan Coyle ]

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