StrumBroads – Smoke
CD: 11 Songs, 48 Minutes
Styles: Mellow Blues, Americana, All Original Songs, Debut Album
Thirty-five years ago (yes, I’m that old), I fell in love with a terrific Trio: Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris. Their harmonies were like the Northern Lights – stunning, shifting, and so high above me that I could never hope to reach them. Our family played their cassette tape (yes, I’m that old, too) time and again until it wore out. We were addicted. The StrumBroads, a female duo with silver-golden hair and voices to match, have invoked happy memories of their world-famous predecessors. They currently have gigs on the West Coast, but with time and more promotion, hopefully they’ll be known throughout the US and worldwide.
Their debut album Smoke is a lilting collection of eleven original songs. Several are excellent examples of this magazine’s preferred music, such as “Say Goodbye to the Blues,” “Blue Diamond,” “No Cash Blues” and “The Body Snatcher” (these last two are highlights, as I’ll explain later). Others are lovely in and of themselves, but they outright kill the blues mood (“Beautiful Day” and “My Friend”). “What Kind of Love is That” is like a monochromatic oil or watercolor painting, blending cyan, cerulean, navy and indigo in a flowing representation of our genre’s color. Even on the rock number “Narrow Mind,” one can sense our protagonists’ relentless positivity. All their edges are blunt. Think ruler instead of razor. However, when it comes to a warm and heartfelt vibe, these two and their companions more than measure up.
The StrumBroads are Sonny Hess on guitar and vocals and Kathryn Grimm on guitar, mandolin and vocals. Stalwartly supporting them are Leah Hinchcliff on bass guitar, Ward Griffiths on drums and percussion, and Myrtle Brown on backup vox.
“No Cash Blues” is a mellow ballad that turns the last word in the title into the most beautiful one in the English language. It begins with acoustic rain falling gently on listeners’ ears, with the strummers veering into lusty territory: “I’m looking for a man to love me just the way I am. I’m looking for a man, and I’ll give him whatever I can. He’ll be my only. We won’t be lonely. We’ll sing the No Cash Blues. . .” Can passion survive poverty? The Broads think so. “Money, it ain’t the end-all, be-all. Having somebody is all the ‘rich’ I’ll ever need.”
What about one’s looks and physical attributes? Unfortunately, sooner or later a feared foe comes along and gives us a rude awakening: “Stop! Stop! There’s been a ‘Body Snatcher’ here. Stop, stop! Well, I need to make it clear. I’m still young and I need to plead my case: someone has snatched my body and put an old one in its place.” Dig that boisterous bass from Leah Hinchcliff and Ward Griffiths’ dynamite drumbeat. For the record, I’m still wondering what happened to the lissome high-school senior in my prettiest photos. Is she gone? Totally.
With a bit more fire, Smoke could have incinerated my house. Thank the StrumBroads for that!