October 6, 2011

CD Review: Mallett Brothers' sophomore effort brings rollicking riffs, honest voice

The band offers up a strong, distinctly American voice with their new album, "Low Down."


After gobbling up accolades like sunflower seeds, the mighty Mallett Brothers Band is ready to drop the follow-up to its dynamite debut. It's maybe the most anticipated local record of the year, so if you're bracing for a sophomore slump, don't. "Low Down" burns hot when the six country players turn it up, but just as easily delivers a heart-heavy lament.

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PRODUCED BY Mallett Brothers Band

**** 1/2

The best part of this dust-covered country, though, is its unmistakable honesty. Scour the songs for layered hipster nuance, and you'll later be smoking cloves wondering what just blew past you. Instead, everything's big on "Low Down" -- banjos, drums and sadness all in one hearty blast.

Crank the windows down for Will Mallett and Nate Soule's lightning banjo and mandolin duel in "Born Cryin,'" a tune that was designed to accompany a drive along a rushing New England river. In "Don't Need You," a sleepy bass lifts the tortured longing in the chorus, and Soule's sharp electric jabs give the ballad its terse punctuation. Cowboy boot heels will be stomping wherever this tour rolls when the band breaks out "Benny," with Luke Mallett offering his more gnarled vocals over beautifully building tension.

"Low Down" closes with "Think I'd Feel Fine," a slow sing-a-long for the sweat to dry that espouses simple appreciation as the path to aging gracefully. It's a nice reminder that the band isn't pilfering tricks or gimmicks, just offering up its strong, distinctly American voice.

Mike Olcott is a freelance writer.


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