For fans of popular folk rock bands such as the Lumineers and Mumford and Sons who are looking to get a little closer to the Americana and bluegrass worlds, the new album from the Abrams Brothers might be just the ticket. Northern Redemption, a collection of nine songs from Canadian brothers John and James Abrams, offers listeners an interesting mix of folk, pop, country, and Americana with bluegrass influences scattered throughout.
The majority of the songs on the album are originals written or cowritten by at least one of the brothers. The title track is one of the more bluegrass sounding on the album, and speaks of regrets as the singer wonders why he “failed to try and said goodbye.” While the liner notes state that James plays the violin on the album, it’s definitely fiddling on this track, as well as on the country-grass song Where I’m Bound. This tune (one of the most enjoyable on the album), with its drums, pedal steel, and tale of rambling, is a little reminiscent of J.D. Crowe and the New South’s more progressive work from the late 1970s.
The group channels the 1960s and ’70s on a few of the tunes. Window, a slow love song, has a hazy Beatles feel to it, while Thirteen, a cover courtesy of ’70s rock band Big Star, was actually inspired by cowriter Alex Chilton having seen the Beatles in concert. While You Sleep, a hopeful tune about moving on from sadness and the past, is folky and cheerful-sounding. Bluegrass and rock meet on Viva La Vida, a banjo-fueled cover of the 2008 Coldplay hit.
Much of the lyrics here are of the somewhat vague, reflective variety common to indie and emo music, with some nice images and even a reference to classic literature (The Great Gatsby) in closing track Planet of Seasons. It may not be what bluegrass fans are used to hearing, but this writing style fits the music well.
The Abrams Brothers include a wide variety of instruments on this album, ranging from the traditional acoustic bluegrass instruments to French horn, Clavinet, and electric guitars. John and James share lead vocal duty, with John contributing guitar, mandolin, keyboards, and percussion, and James playing violin, electric guitar, and percussion. They are joined by their cousin Elijah Abrams (bass), producer Chris Brown (organ, piano, Wurlitzer, Clavinet, synthesizers), Anton Fier (drums), Nick Piccininni and Brandon Green (banjo), and Burke Carroll (pedal steel), among several others. These musicians come together to create a unique blend of musical styles which isn’t quite bluegrass but which is enjoyable nonetheless.
For more information on the Abrams Brothers, visit their website at theabramsbrothers.com.
Northern Redemption can be purchased from a variety of online music retailers.