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I’ll admit to being sick all to hell of Americana artists. So much of that stuff is just recycling what’s come before, with more attention paid to the trappings of so-called “authenticity” than to actual creativity or spirit. Sometimes, in fact, it’s just commercial indie pop in Americana drag (hello, Lumineers). In particular, new artists within that community tend to hold no interest for me whatsoever.
I’m pleased to report, however, that the Howlin’ Brothers are different. A trio of young Nashvillians armed with banjos, fiddles, guitar and doghouse bass, Ian Craft, Ben Plasse and Jared Green don’t sound like guys who started playing string-band music because they thought it would make them cool (or rich). Instead, they sound like they heard the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, etc. (on records? Played by relatives? On public radio? Does it matter?) and were simply inspired – not only to pick up acoustic instruments, mind you, but to write their own songs in the same spirit.
From the rowdy bluegrass of “Take This Hammer” to the high plains C&W of “Tell Me That You Love Me,” the shuffling blues of “Big Time” to the New Orleans stomp of “Delta Queen,” the Jazz Age hokum of “Just Like You” to the hillbilly blare of “Hermitage Hotstep,” Howl proffers tunes true to the spirit of their inspirations without being slavish imitators. Driven but not ruled by skilled musicianship, they keep the rootsy waters churning without concern for winning Instrumentalist of the Year awards. Worrying less about authenticity than about being real, the Howlin’ Brothers make music that ignores trends in favor of timelessness.
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