The Howlin' Brothers Howl

The Howlin' Brothers Howl
5
This Nashville trio are the latest to attempt modernizing the jug band/bluegrass tradition and on their debut album, they do a good job injecting some energy into well-worn themes. While not as tight and forthright as predecessors such as Old Crow Medicine Show, the Howlin' Brothers check all the right boxes, from the ripping, fiddle-led "Julia Belle Swain" to the Dixieland stomp of "Delta Queen." However, there's an undeniable sense that the group and producer Brendan Benson (the Raconteur) worked a little too hard trying to live up to an ideal. Sure, there are plenty of rough edges on Howl that illustrate the group's lively interplay, but in the end, too many songs ring hollow. There are moments, as on "Gone," where it seems they might conjure up some Randy Newman-esque irony, but they invariably end up sounding like the dozens of other old-timey recreationists peddling their wares at the moment. It's unfair to heap all the blame upon Benson, whose familiarity with roots music comes via his association with Jack White, but if more attention was paid to crafting better songs, rather than just sounds, Howl would have been much more fulfilling. (Dine Alone)