Back to the Old Stuff is all about the feel good, and I’m getting to know it better every time I spin it. To compare the sound of The Tallent Brothers to anyone else ~ well, I’m not sure that would be fair. To me, the Brothers are smooth balladeers with down home style, and this CD is just an awesome, polished collection.
“You boys are the next Allman Brothers.”
~ David Allan Coe
From the TallentBrothers.com website, they tell their own story …
“From working with Levon Helm at his home-studio, to touring as David Allan Coe’s backing band, The Tallent Brothers have logged extensive mileage en-route to releasing their debut LP, Back On The Old Stuff. Just as all journeys are said to begin with a single step, perhaps all band journeys begin with a single van. For the Tallent Bros that van – a shagged out, customized ‘76 Econoline with porthole windows and a bitchin’ paint scheme – proved to be the catalyst of a musical journey that is nearing a decade in duration.
‘We drove the van all the way from the farm to Woodstock for a Midnight Ramble, and everyone there was so impressed that we were introduced to Levon,’ says Brandon. ‘Talking with Levon was like talking to a family member, and we were invited to come back the next day to hang out.’ Like an old stray dog, The Tallent Brothers just kept coming back and began working for Levon, splitting wood and performing other odd-jobs. It was during this time that Rocky, a trained recording engineer, assisted on sessions that would ultimately result in Helm’s final studio album, Grammy winning, Electric Dirt. The brothers left Woodstock and returned home in late December ’08 to assist with the care of aging grandparents and to write.
They spent the next few years writing songs, and playing in cover bands to make ends meet. In July of ’14, Brandon received a call from country music legend David Allan Coe’s management, asking if he would be interested in playing lead guitar in Coe’s band. Brandon explained that The Tallent Brothers were a package deal, and after an epic audition during which Coe exclaimed, “You boys are the next … Allman Brothers!” They got the job. Touring with the infamous Outlaw proved to be a great learning experience, and it did not take long to realize that their own music and message must be a priority. After a sold out show in Houston, they informed Coe that they would be leaving the road and returning home once again, this time to make a record!
With nearly a decade’s worth of material to choose from, the record took shape rather quickly, with an equal mix of old and newer songs that serve as a reflection of the brothers’ human experience. Underlying these experiences is a unifying theme best expressed in focus track “There’s a Spirit”, a track co-written with the great Pat McLaughlin (John Prine, Al Kooper, Bonnie Raitt), with an anthem-chorus exclaiming “Keep looking up when hope runs dry/It’s out there flying high”. Other stand out tracks include the psych-tinged ballad “When You Need Me”, and the ironically jumpy “Without You”.
“While no two songs on the record stick to any particular format,
the music is best described as American Roots Rock,and could be compared to contemporary acts like Wilco, Lucero, and Beck.”
I was introduced to The Tallent Brothers in 2010, not in person mind you, but through recordings that my son, Colin shared with me as he sat in on the recording and mixing of his friends’ earlier works. The Brothers are musical artists that I have followed because of him. We have shared a mutual love of music since his youth, so it’s fun to now tag along on this musical journey – from the Conservatory of Recording Arts in Phoenix to the legendary Barn in Woodstock, the farm house sessions in Missouri, and most recently the studio sessions in Nashville (where Colin also introduced the Brothers to his distant cousin, recording artist, Pat McLaughlin.)
To me, the earlier recordings were more raw, but the underlying “Tallent” I heard rose to the top like a fine cream oozing out of their Midwestern roots. “This Dirt,” from the River Vibes Recording Sessions still gives me goose bumps when I hear it. I’ve often thought it could have been recorded by the “Man in Black” himself.
The compilation of tracks on this debut LP have that same potential ~ to take your head somewhere peaceful. Songs obviously written from life experience, the CD triggers the same type of serenity as Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks released back in 1974 when full-size Econolines were first equipped with shag-carpet and party amenities.
The opening track, Can’t Have You, and When You Need Me are songs that I envision being sadly hummed on a bar stool with a warm beer. As the lyrics go, “I wear it like a scar,” and the latter song has an eerie beat like that of a broken heart. Without You is a little more upbeat in that the heart has started to turn the tide to tell the story that “I’m alright without you.”
There’s a Spirit is the obvious winner for me. You can clearly hear the Pat McLaughlin influence, and at first the humble mandolin strumming lightly mixed into the track can be mistaken for Pat but it is actually Ben’s talent that you hear. In these times of loud screaming everything, it is nice to have this type of hopeful sound spinning around in my headphones.
“Keep looking up when hope runs dry/It’s out there flying high.”
All of the tracks are tasty, but the final track, “Old Stuff,” nicely wraps up the journey. I’m not sure what the “Old Stuff” is exactly, but the song is an anthem to all the piles of it found in every lifetime.
Do yourself a favor, and buy this CD. It is available for purchase from TallentBrothers.com or the iTunes store. Honestly, it is a delightful musical experience; and without any undue bias from this mother’s heart, I give it five thumbs up!