Oisin Leech and Mark McCausland, the Irish duo who are The Lost Brothers make beautiful music together. Since teaming up in Liverpool in 2007 they have seemed to be conjoined at the hip (or throat) as their superb harmony singing has graced three albums and led to performances at the infamous Midnight Ramble at Levon Helm’s studio complex and more recently appearing live on Russian television. Invariably they’ve been compared to both the Everlys and Simon and Garfunkel due to the vocal setting but it’s fair to say that the pair are also very fine songwriters who have a knack of teaming up with simpatico producers and players giving each of their discs an individual personality.
Having recorded previously in Portland, Oregon, Sheffield and then Nashville (with Brendan Benson in the producers chair) for their previous releases New Songs of Dawn and Dust finds them back in their old stomping ground of Liverpool with ex Coral guitarist Bill Ryder Jones producing while another Coral member, Nick Power adds keyboards and writes one of the songs here. In contrast to 2012’s The Passing Of The Night which featured an excellent studio country band (including Gil Landry and Paul Brainard) here the music is pared back for the most part with the Brothers’ voices and guitars complemented on occasion by piano and drums and occasional trumpet allowing the harmonies full rein to shine.
The album opens with the gentle and lilting Spanish Reprise, described by the Brothers as “a Mexican sunrise over the Mersey.” Similar in mood to the cantina instrumentals on Willie Nelson’s Spirit album it serves as a bridge from the avowed Americana of the last album to the comparatively muted new world influences on the songs that follow. Day’s Ahead showcases the reasons for the comparisons to Phil, Don, Art and Paul as the Brothers deliver a jaunty acoustic guitar scrubbed cousin to Wake Up Little Susie with Mariachi trumpet adding colour. On Derridae however they take a cowboy lope and marry it to an Irish mysticism as they sing about a girl who weaves spells capturing hearts. It’s a beautiful song that features Leech and McCausland at their best, troubadours of the West and the Celtic heartland. Soldier’s Song is another winner with a simple guitar melody adorned by a mournful trumpet while Poor Poor Man harks back to a rustic and simple ballad form with a Woody Guthrie feel while the trumpet ( by Martin Smith) again adds a forlorn air. Gold And Silver reminds one that the Lost Brothers often refer to dusk and darkness (witness the album title) and is the sparest song here as an evocative and solitary guitar allows their voices to shine with a crepuscular glow as they sing about the lure of riches and the resultant price to pay, “raining down like poison showers.” This sepulchral element is highlighted on the closing song, the stark and majestic Stones Throw which throws up shivers for the listener as Power’s dramatic keyboards echo under the twilight vocals with the end result having a similar emotional heft as Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.
New Songs of Dawn and Dust is in essence a fantastic album, a mature work from a duo who are well able to deliver these songs in a live setting stripped of the studio trappings. The Lost Brothers will be touring on the back of the release with some Scottish dates included. See here.