The Howlin' Brothers

Readymade Records, 2013

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


If there ever was a group that named themselves well, it is The Howlin’ Brothers. Ian Craft (banjo, mandolin, fiddle, vocals), Jared Green (guitar, harmonica, vocals), and Ben Plasse (upright bass, banjo, vocals) hoot, holler, growl, and of course howl their way through the dozen tracks contained on their new album, again appropriately titled Howl.

The production is impeccable, the music is a cross between modern bluegrass and country, but the vocals are primal, looking back to the style that came out of the Appalachian Mountains and the swamps of the South. It all adds up to a unique combination of old and new.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

They are a basic acoustic string band that visits country blues, bluegrass, and even incorporates some Dixieland jazz into their sound. The bass serves the dual role of providing the foundation for the fiddles and mandolins, with the slapping technique making up for a lack of drums. The only song outside this simple concept is the album opening “Big Time,” which features Allman Brothers guitarist Warren Haynes as a guest and co-writer.

The music and melodies are fairly catchy, and they have chosen a good selection of original songs, a few traditional tunes, a John Hartford composition “Julia Belle Swan,” and “My Dog Can’t Bark” by Chicago bluesman Otis “Big Smokey” Smothers. The music is smooth, and the instruments combine to create traditional bluegrass and country sound.

Everything changes when the vocals kick in and The Howlin’ Brothers moves the music away from the mainstream into a territory that is rarely explored nowadays. It is a sound that emanates from the Jimmie Rodgers era of country music. Just think of an old fashioned Hootenanny tucked away in some mountain community.

Songs such as “Tennessee Blues,” “Take This Hammer,” “Boatman Dance,” “Hermitage Hotstep,” and “Delta Queen” all takes the road less traveled.

Howl is the fifth album by The Howlin’ Brothers counting their 2012 live release Old Time All The Time and they continue to evolve as a band. Their music may be a little different but is always interesting and entertaining, which achieves their intent.

Rating: B

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© 2013 David Bowling and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Readymade Records, and is used for informational purposes only.