When you harness the old mountain sounds of roots music (banjo, fiddle, mandolin etc.), it better be underpinned by some really good songs, or have something really worthwhile to say. Otherwise your offerings are little more than those of a ‘denim dungarees and hay bales’ variety show turn. New Mexico’s Hoth Brothers (spoiler alert: one of the brothers is clearly female) save us from any such suffering – they’ve got simple, unfussy songs with strong lyrics in abundance.
Boris McCutcheon and Bard Erdington are the principal writers; they got together whilst working pruning trees in old New Mexico, and they’re pulling no punches in songs such as ‘January’, where the orange toddler in chief and all he stands for, is encircled and lyrically disembowelled. Sixteen tracks make this a long listening session, but there’s plenty to reward such perseverance. Opener ‘Trees of Heaven’ also speaks of an end to presidential evils, and how doing so would “let the sunshine in”. They’ve no need to convince this writer of the merits of their idea. ‘Singing Grass’ is sooo slow and loping, kind of Springsteen or Prine meets ‘Oh My Darling Clementine’. It’s quite charming, however sad the story; probably the stand out track here. ‘Rendezvous Duel’ is a slice of Western Noir, ‘Chili Line’ an old fashioned hill country train’s a comin’ jig. Closer ‘Wild Robby’ tells of the triumphs and ultimate tragedy that befell a group of wandering criminals; it’s one of those could-easily-be-hundreds–of–years-old folksy ballads. It’s a nice way to end things for the Hoth Brothers – casting their rootsy influences back to a logical starting point.