Release Date: Mar 1, 2011
Record label: Partisan
This singer-songwriter summit — John McCauley of Deer Tick, Dawes' Taylor Goldsmith, Delta Spirit's Matthew Vasquez — is an alt-country round robin, with raw harmonies and punk-rock sentiment as unforgiving as a prison shiv. "I know my days are numbered, but I'm bad at math/I got a dick so hard that a cat couldn't scratch," howls McCauley on "Middle Brother." Half the songs on Middle Brother involve drinking and the rest hangovers of the heart, and on Paul Westerberg's "Portland," everyone chimes in on the line "It's too late to turn back, here we gooooo" — they're certain of trouble ahead, and relishing it. Listen to "Me, Me, Me": Gallery: Random Notes, Rock's Hottest Photos .
The side project Middle Brother, a trio of the singer/songwriters Taylor Goldsmith (of Dawes), John McCauley (of Deer Tick), and Matthew Vasquez (of Delta Spirit), works because its members share a similar sensibility, so that, although they alternate selections as if participating in a song pull, the album holds together in the same spirit. That is, it holds together loosely, since the similar sensibility is the familiar one of the drunken slacker full of gallows humor, and the folk and folk-rock music, appropriately, is played in ramshackle, thrown-together arrangements. The musicians tip their hand (and tip their hats) by covering Paul Westerberg's "Portland," and Westerberg would fit right in with this bunch of guys, with their shared wry sense of humor and skewed point of view.
Growing attached to a supergroup is like growing attached to a temporary tattoo. They’re a great idea in the moment, but they’re just going to fade away in the end. With the exception of CSN (and sometimes Y), very few of these often ill-advised projects make it past the first date. Nobody hates supergroups more than your local record store clerk.
Middle Brother is no Cream. Then again, not all supergroups can be the “Sunshine of Your Love”, reaching widespread success in the admirably short span of two years. Clapton aside, Middle Brother, a new band consisting of John McCauley of Deer Tick, Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, and Matt Vasquez of Delta Spirit are surely the cream of the crop of the indie-folk world (see what I did there?).
Last March a band calling themselves MG&V played their first show to a capacity crowd at SXSW. The initials belonged to John McCauley of Deer Tick, Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes and Matt Vasquez of Delta Spirit. A record, they said, had been in the bag for several months and it was only a matter of time and tour schedules aligning before it would be out.
Debuting at last year's SXSW as MG&V, Middle Brother is basically a mini Monsters of Folk behind Deer Tick's John McCauley, Dawes' Taylor Goldsmith, and Delta Spirit's Matthew Vasquez. While all three songwriters shine, the most compelling aspect of these recordings lies in the effectiveness of the shading that each adds to the others' tunes, especially in how McCauley's caustic growl gets softened by the smoother tenors of Goldsmith and Vasquez. Of those latter two, Vasquez's "Theater" rings with a lustrous Gram Parsons feel, while Goldsmith strikes best with the pallor of "Blood and Guts.