Streaming Cafe

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Crooked Brothers "...an altogether different breed of folk."

by Malcolm Petch

“Music full of hips and hearts.” Who describes their music that way? “…a heartache stripped and unadorned” …welcome to The Crooked Brothers. If this is the language they use for the website description of their music, can you imagine what their lyrics are like?
The Crooked Brothers stand out. Jesse Matas, Darwin Baker and Matt Foster are a trio of multi-instrumentalists from Winnipeg, Manitoba, and as The Crooked Brothers they craft amazing music with their guitars, mandolins, dobros, and banjos. And the harmonies – you’d almost think these three really were brothers the way their voices blend and complement each other.

A little bit of digging on their website and blog reveals a couple of interesting facts: their first album, Deathbed Pillowtalk (2009), was recorded in a warm log cabin during a cold Manitoba winter. Their newest album, Lawrence, Where’s Your Knife? (released on September 23) was recorded in a warm log cabin during a cold Manitoba winter. Seems to be a bit of a theme happening. Here’s the kicker: all three of The Crooked Brothers spent May and June out in the woods building (wait for it) an 18-foot by 18-foot log cabin destined to be a rental property at Falcon Trails Resort in Falcon Lake, Manitoba, where Jesse runs the ski shop and Matt cooks during the non-folk-festival season (otherwise known in Canada as ‘the wintertime’). If you look closely at the video they’ve posted about their log-building activities, however, you’ll note that there are way more than three guys hauling the logs up to the top of the walls on the cabin. There’s also no mention on their website as to whether working with heavy logs all the time is the reason the brothers became crooked.
Okay, so these three guys spend their winters living in log cabins, and spend their summers (well, one anyway) building log cabins (and playing in folk festivals from coast to coast). Can you get more canadiana than that?
It’s the music that really stands out, though. The Crooked Brothers have a distinctly folk sound, yet it’s refreshingly different from a distinctly folk sound; tight harmonies, yes, and lots of natural instrumentation–very straight-ahead bluegrass, actually–but there are touches and elements in The Crooked Brothers’ music that inject a fresh spark into what they do. Listen to 17 Horses, the opening cut on their new album, and right after the opening bluesy dobro and folksy banjo there’s some foot-stomp/hand clap action that sounds more like, well, … hmm. I don’t know what it sounds like, but it doesn’t sound like bluegrass. But it sounds good.
The Crooked Brothers release their music via Transistor 66 Record Company, a self-described “happily dysfunctional” label who are home to punk bands like Cripple Creek Fairies, rock’n’roll/rockabilly groups like the Hot Live Guys, and folk artists like The Kent Boys or Scott Nolan. It’s a combination that reaches an eclectic audience, obviously, and one that seems to keep the various artists happy. 

Catch The Crooked Brothers at Streaming Cafe on Saturday, October 8th at 7pm (PST). Click for more info.

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