by Sean Jewell::
I’ve heard so many good songs about drugs this year that it might be time to put together a playlist. Most of them are sad, but it’s been truly exciting to see folk music, rock and blues swing back towards the cultural realities that defined them in the first place. Of course things have to be shitty out there for musicians to be writing this stuff. Politics, the epidemic of legal pharmaceutical drugs, stagnant (or no) wages, joblessness, homelessness, soaring costs of living. It’s an imperialist world, and the rest of us are down here feeling like failures.
And that’s the gist of what The Harmed Brothers are after on “Cryin’ Shame”. We all know what the idiom implies, but not all of us have had the grand disappointment of being thee cryin’ shame. Let me tell ya, nothing like trying to kick the habit when everyone’s very reaction to you makes you want to get right back on that train and ride it into a grave. Songwriter and bandleader Ray Vietti tells us:
“Cryin Shame is a song I wrote with my grandfather in mind. It’s me wanting to be a better person but admitting I am who I am and hoping he’d still be proud. I’m the last of his direct bloodline with his last name.”
And that’s the Harmed Brothers. A Cottage Grove, Or. outfit turning lovable losers into song characters, sad situations into dobro riffs, and keeping it all plucky with a banjo ramble.
On their latest, self-titled, out April 21st, The Harmed Brothers are in new sonic territory, experimenting right from the beginning by opening the record with field recorded sounds that fade into a piano roll and sequencer beat. The record is full with electric sounds, horn sections, piano, and various lead singers. They’re moving out of their lo-fi beginnings and maturing into a full band, composing entire symphonies around their stories on a bluegrass (mando/fiddle/guitar/banjo) base augmented with moody electric guitars, and cascades of percussion. Help in realizing their dream comes from indie, dreamy record label Fluff & Gravy Records in Portland. The band has revisited previously recorded originals as well as put up a full album of new songs. The Harmed brothers have incorporated acoustic instruments and life’s uncertainty into electrifying compositions of quiet fury, and their eponymous album is a musical road trip into emotional life in the western world.