While they generate headlines in their native Australia, The Davidson Brothers aren’t nearly as well known in the US, something they hope to remedy with their showcase appearances at the 2014 World of Bluegrass convention coming up next month.
And with their latest album, Wanderlust, a perfect demonstration of their unique approach to contemporary bluegrass, landing somewhere between bad boy, outlaw country and the sort of smooth grass you hear on the radio in the states. With it they have found popular success back home, where their music is played on country radio, which takes a more expansive view of the format than they do here.
Hamish and Lachlan Davidson are both multi-instrumentalists, singers and songwriters. All of the songs on Wanderlust are theirs, as are the lead vocals, and most of the instrumental solos, assisted by their road band, Jacob McGuffie on guitar and Louis Gill on upright bass.
Things get started in a very conventional way with Every Time I Leave, a falling out of love song, and Travelling Bluebird, a sort of modern day brother duet. Transpacific is a modern banjo instrumental that features Hamish on banjo, Lachlan on mandolin and Jacob on guitar. Each gets a chance to stretch out and strut their stuff as the tune wanders from a bluesy mandolin intro, to a driving banjo melody, to a rock-style vamp, and back again.
More than once the Davidsons reference a hard partying, serious carousing sort of vibe. Of course that’s a stereotype of Australia that we are fed in the US, but maybe it’s more true than not! Hit The Town is an acoustic country anthem to good times with a Nashville feel, a happy, feel-good song which finds Hamish on reso-guitar.
Looking at the other side of the drinkin’ and smokin’ lifestyle, Lost in Amsterdam tells of the morning after a night of bacchanalia, with the protagonist waking up bloody, beaten and bemused, lying on the street in the Dutch capital. Can’t imagine how that could happen. Two versions of the song are included, a rocking take with electric guitar and drums, and an “unplugged” mix that still carries an acoustic rock feel, generated with banjo and mandolin.
Grass Hound, the album’s second instrumental, is a chordy romp led by the mandolin, while Bottle Cappin’, Back Crackin’ Blues is a rollicking, jammy number. I suspect that the latter is a big hit on live shows.
Though Wanderlust doesn’t fit readily into a traditional bluegrass category, bluegrass lovers will surely enjoy this record. If the solid picking, clever songwriting, and soulful singing doesn’t grab you, the inescapable exuberance and sheer joy The Davidson Brothers put into their music surely will.
Audio samples of all eleven tracks can be found on the band’s web site, where you can purchase both CDs and digital downloads.