(Compass Records, CD, digital, vinyl)
"What do you think about cover songs?" I asked friends after listening to the Brother Brothers' third album, Cover to Cover. Responses varied from "I don't really like them" to "I like them, sometimes more than the original" and "Can be great, usually meh" to "Songwriting and playing music are two distinct skills. If you can do one and not the other, why not play covers?"
My own feelings were relatively skeptical and pessimistic: What do cover songs have to offer? I thought. Yet my mindset shifted through listening to Cover to Cover and the conversations it sparked. A beautiful song is a beautiful song — regardless of who originally composed it — and indie folk duo the Brother Brothers have created a collection of beautiful (cover) songs.
The Brother Brothers are David and Adam Moss, "identical twins born and raised in Peoria, Illinois, formerly based in Brooklyn, New York, but ultimately and profoundly shaped by indiscriminate rambling," according to the Compass Records website. Their vocal harmonies and soft tenor voices are eerily evocative of Simon & Garfunkel.
I could write an essay on the magical X factor that shared genes can give family bands. Suffice it to say that the Mosses' kin vocals and bluegrass-country sound recall other talented singing sibling duos such as the Avett Brothers, First Aid Kit and the Hanseroth brothers — aka "the twins" from Brandi Carlile's band.
The Brother Brothers stay close to their genre with the covers they select, such as Tom T. Hall's "That's How I Got to Memphis" and Larry Sparks' "Blue Virginia Blues." Their versions don't stray far from the banjo pluckin', mandolin strummin' sounds of the originals.
The duo also boldly takes on greats such as the Beatles and James Taylor. While the curmudgeon in me can't help but be disappointed when it's not Paul McCartney's voice singing "Who knows how long I've loved you?" on "I Will," the brothers' rendition of Taylor and Carly Simon's "You Can Close Your Eyes" is one of my favorites on the album.
Notable talented friends join the brothers on a few tracks, including Racheal Price of Lake Street Dive and Sarah Jarosz of I'm With Her. "I Get Along Without You Very Well (Except Sometimes)" is a haunting a cappella track and the zenith of that sibling vocal beauty X factor as Emily Price joins her sister on backup vocals.
Warm harmonies, gentle percussion and soft melodies make Cover to Cover an album that would complement fireflies in a summer meadow and the crackling of a campfire in the pines. "Covering a song is an act of making it your own," David Moss wrote by email to Seven Days. "The respect for the songs and the songwriters only grows as you make them your own." The Brother Brothers have me convinced: Cover songs have plenty to offer.
Cover to Cover will be released on Friday, August 5, on all major streaming platforms. The Brother Brothers play ArtsRiot in Burlington on Wednesday, August 3.