The Greenbeans, a duo from Willsboro in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York have in their debut album a disc that is somewhat astonishing in its audacity and bravado. From the kickoff this is a full blooded (and loud) mainly acoustic album that blusters and swaggers with the pair, brothers Vinny and Joe Ferris, proving they have a fine handle on catchy melodic songs while their voices ring loud and clear. They share guitar, banjo and harmonica with the sound fleshed out by Kenny Siegal on bass, lap steel and keyboards, Otto Hauser on drums with Gwen Snyder Siegal and Marco Benevento popping up on accordion and Terence Murren on upright bass. The first thing one notices here is the strong Celtic connection in many of their songs and it turns out that the brothers’ great grandfather was a musician and storyteller in County Leitrim, Ireland and their grandmother only emigrated to the States in 1954 keeping the Irish tradition strong as the boys were growing up.
At their best they don’t overly betray their Irish origins but the songs do cleave to what Mike Scott called “the big music” with the best example being the rolling roils of A Happy Life and Celebration Song. However, it’s the opening song, Down The Road, that shows them as capable of snatching The Saw Doctors’ crown as kings of unashamed good time Celtic folk rock while Sword In the Stone has a similar woozy familiarity as some of The Mountain Firework Company’s work. In contrast there’s a preppy pop feel to a couple of the songs on display where the duo deliver well crafted mainstream pop lyrics with a deft sense of hummability. The piano driven That Would Be So Nice is tailor made for radio with its hooks and horn shimmered chorus with an amped up Loving Spoonful feel. Girlfriend From High School attempts the same trick but with less success with the lyrics (and chorus especially) somewhat hackneyed but the delivery is spot on coming across like a Celtic version of Fountains of Wayne. A song begging to be picked up by an American TV show.
Overall the brothers have a great calling card as there’s no doubt that the album is packed full of songs waiting to be heard over the airwaves although to avoid being one hit wonders they might need to decide which direction to go in. They could go down a storm with their Celtic influenced shanties in a place like Glasgow’s Barrowlands (listen to All We Want Is Love and imagine the crowd singing and dancing to the chorus) or they could follow the likes of The Avett Brothers and capture the American college audience. For a debut its very promising and it will be interesting to watch their journey. In the meantime they seem like an act that would be great fun live.