Picks and Pans Review: Easy Street
The Wright Brothers
Sorry, Philadelphia. Nashville is the city of brotherly love these days, at least for country music purposes. There is indeed something folksy and reassuring about performing families; it may be that the stability of such groups implies a sincerity in their music. These four fraternal organizations are all quite distinct. The Gatlins are the only group who have to deal with a star trip, but Larry has carried brothers Rudy and Steve with him, even as far as his sports clothes commercials, and their background harmonies continue to lend a special quality to his otherwise slick, standard vocal style. The Gatlins' current album (Columbia) includes their hit single from last fall, Houston (Means I'm One Day Closer to You), as well as the first tunes they've recorded that weren't written by Larry. This isn't a bad idea, since his songs can get tiresomely slick (When the Night Closes In is a zippy exception in this case). And the Walt Aldridge-Tom Brasfield number Not Tonight, I've Got a Heartache is always fun to hear.
The Maines are a seven-piece Texas band. Lloyd, Steve, Kenny and Donnie Maines are all from Lubbock, and two of their three sidekicks are Texans too. On High Rollin' (Mercury), their first mainstream LP, they sing and play with a lot of happy Western-swing touches—Richard Bowden's fiddle and mandolin are exemplary. They choose some witty material too, such as Kenneth Bell's, Terry Skinner's and J.L. Wallace's Louisiana Anna ("Double first cousin to hard-hearted Hannah/ heart so cold they should call her Amana"). Their ballads, such as You Are a Miracle, get a little treacly, but they're a good-time bunch.
While only two of the four Statlers—Don and Harold Reid—are brothers, the group has had only one personnel change in 20 years, and they still have a marvelously warm, rich sound. Harold, who sings bass, provides the foundation for the Statlers' music the way a great middle-linebacker anchors a defense in football. Atlanta Blue (Mercury) includes a sensibly emotional song by Don Reid about the breakup of a relationship, One Takes the Blame; a religious tune, One Size Fits All, which profits from the Statlers' gospel-based sound; and *HOLLY*WOOD*, which is full of corny puns. My Only Love lapses into florid overproduction, but the album also includes a long, delightful guitar solo by producer Jerry Kennedy on Give It Your Best—an instrumental touch that makes the boys' singing sound all the better.
The Wrights—Tom and Tim—as well as their partner, John Wesley McDowell III, are all from Indianapolis. Easy Street (Mercury) shows off their mild country-rock inclinations, with a rambunctious bluegrassy version of Eight Days a Week that may drive Beatles purists crazy even if it does have a let's-not-take-ourselves-too-seriously tone to it. Love's Slippin' Up on Me, by country pop master Bob McDill, and Dixie Road, by Mary Ann Kennedy, Pam Rose and Don Goodman, display a clean, commercial sound, and the band is backed up by an extended family of studio musicians. It's not all in the family, after all.
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