CD review: Middle Brother, Middle Brother (with video)

Instead, listeners are treated to a 50-minute slice of well-crafted, emotionally-delivered rock n' roll that switches from delicately plucked laments on love that’ll never be (“Daydreaming”), galloping explorations of what it means to be a man (“Middle Brother”), and harmony-laden tributes to the golden days of AM radio (“Someday”).

It’s easy to figure out who penned the songs, and every member’s unique writing and vocal styles get ample time in the spotlight:  We hear Vasquez’s trademark howl on “Blue Eyes” and Goldsmith’s downtrodden delivery on “Thanks For Nothing,” but McCouley narrowly gets top honors for the way he sings pleasantly demented recollections about listening to his neighbors hump, counting booze as a nutrient, and having “a d**k so hard that a cat could scratch.”

It all comes to head on the album’s closing track – “Million Dollar Bill” – when each one of the boys gets to deliver his own heart-wrenching verse before joining forces on a harmony arrangement that effectively acts like an on-switch for the tear ducts. “When it hits me that she’s gone / I think I’ll be an astronaut,” sings McCauley, “so when she steps out to the night / and finds the light that makes her pretty / she’ll be facing me every time she shines.”

And that pretty much sums it all up: Definitely out of this world, definitely pretty as hell, and almost perfect from start to finish.


Middle Brother's debut LP is available now via Partisan Records

Follow Ray on Twitter @RayRoa

Middle Brother performing "Million Dollar Bill" at Music Hall of Williamsburg on March 5, 2011.

Middle Brother from nina westervelt on Vimeo.

Supergroups are inevitable. Fueled by the natural desire to improve upon formulas that have already been confirmed as successful, already-established artists tend to venture outside their regular creative bubbles and join other recognized artists in co-ops that have names like Cream, The Highwaymen, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, and Broken Bells.

Sometimes it works (UGK, The Traveling Wilburys); sometimes it crashes and burns (Boxcar Racer, Velvet Revolver). But when everything clicks as it should, the results can be magical.

Enter Middle Brother. Formed by Matt Vasquez, Taylor Goldsmith, and John J. McCauley III (who respectively front Delta Spirit, Dawes, and Deer Tick), the group’s self-titled debut LP makes them sound like the latest reincarnation of Americana’s Holy Trinity. Sure, Jim James, Conor Oberst, and M. Ward might’ve successfully tried their hand at a similar concept when they put Monsters of Folk together, but Middle Brother’s 12-track contribution to the tradition is pleasantly devoid of the mysticism and occasionally heavy-handed vibe that MOF sometimes present.

About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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