Portland Brothers “First EP” (Sunday Mourning Records, 2019)

First EP’ is, um…, the first EP from Portland Brothers. However, this is not their first time making music together as band members Steven Adams and Timothy Victor are alumni of the The Broken Family Band which formed in 2001. Their meeting back then at The Portland Arms has surely played a part in the naming of this new venture. Over the years they’ve played together on various projects including indie-rock and folk bands and these influences from over the years are keenly felt in this lovely little EP.

At only four songs long, there is no room to hide here. Thankfully each song is tightly written and well-performed. Adams and Victor could actually be brothers, their voices blend so well.

EP-opener ‘Shake off the Dust’ is the perkiest track on here, with simple wood shaker percussion and acoustic guitar. It’s all about going back to where you grew up and trying to get rid of the negative memories of people who did you down. The slight echo on the vocals makes Adams sound a bit like Scott Walker – a touch that helps to give the track a real sense of the past.

On ‘Let Me In’ we are treated to much more toned down delivery underpinned by some intricate guitar work. There’s a missed opportunity for love here with the verse ending “I’ve got you under my skin” always generating a response that develops through the song: “But you won’t let me in…why won’t you let me in….Why don’t you let me in?” and then finally the dejected “I wish you’d let me in”. It’s delivered so flatly, it stops the song becoming twee.

Invisible love’ is all about Adams and Victor becoming one. Their voices meld together so well they could just be one person. It’s that spine-tingling moment when you realise you are listening to a duo so in-tune with each other they really could be twins.

Is this a song about a close friend or a lover? It doesn’t really matter, the sentiment of ‘Old Friend’ is of the don’t leave me behind kind. “When you’re here you ease me plenty…Old friend of mine, where are you going?”. It’s a classic folk song, simple acoustic delivery and story-telling vocals.

First EP’ is pretty bleak: there’s a lot of reflection on times past and love and friends lost. However, it’s all done with a hint of wryness and this helps stop it descending into melancholy.

Strong folk music and songwriting collaboration from ex-Broken Family Band members
8/10

Author: Linda Jameson

Moonshine, music and murder ballads - I own 6 pairs of cowboy boots!

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