Published May 13, 2014Surging Nashville-based trio the Howlin' Brothers have just released their highly anticipated album Trouble, a 13-track record that explores all alcoves of blue mountain country. The incredibly well rounded album is the band's sixth effort and features an unrestricted collection of songs that explore all country and folk sub-genres. Together with producer, engineer and singer-songwriter Brendan Benson (the Raconteurs), the Howlin' Brothers have crafted a country record with rock'n'roll attitude.
The album begins with the incendiary "Pour It Down," an immediate, audible representation of a Tennessee honky-tonk bar. The sudden beginning of a track as quick and taut as "Pour It Down" is akin to opening heavy wood doors to a band that has been playing in the same bar for an entire evening, with a loyal crowd dancing to a solid formation that you have only just discovered. The record progresses in this way, experimenting with multiple region-specific genres, never settling on a single variety.
For a band like the Howlin' Brothers, travel-worn and veteran, labour becomes a cornerstone of the songwriting. "Night and Day," an ode to the never-ending grind, is reminiscent of the Led Zeppelin III era of Plant and Page's folk exploration and echoes the same work-exhausted lyricism.
The Howlin' Brothers are clearly torn by their allegiance to nomadic music and sedentary domesticity. The antagonism of love, family and adventure are at the heart of this offering. Nowhere is this embattled dichotomy more apparent than on the melodic, fiddle-accented "World Spinning 'Round." Troubled and regretful, the love song pleads a similar message that many rock stars have sung before: "There must be a thousand words/ I could say to you now/ but I can't find my voice/ With a world so loud."
Dexterity is the operative word when listening to Trouble. Each member of the band took part in songwriting and singing responsibilities, and the results are a wonderfully fandangled mix. "Love" for example, is a Sublime-mirroring ska song with a Pat Metheny guitar intro. The final track, the Pentecostal-like affirmation "Yes I Am!," would seem out of place appearing on any other record, but for Trouble, it's just another country stitch in an eccentric rock and roll tapestry. This album will serve the Howlin Brothers well as they embark upon a North American tour this summer. (Dine Alone)