Review: The Gabbard Brothers Create Energized Retro-Styled Music Without Outside Assistance

The Gabbard Brothers | The Gabbard Brothers | (Dead Oceans/Karma Chief)
3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Videos by American Songwriter

Pandemic, schmandemic… when you’re as talented as The Gabbard Brothers, you don’t need to include others, who may be infected, to help record your debut album. Just do it yourself. Better safe than sorry.   

Andrew and Zachary Gabbard might be better known as, respectively, the guitar and bass-wielding guys behind the two frontmen of The Black Keys when that band tours. They will also be aboard for the Keys’ extensive 2022 Dropout Boogie Tour jaunt. But before they leave, the siblings release this self-contained album where they play all the instruments, sing, write the songs, produce and mix everything. Impressive.

The dozen tracks are influenced by a diverse set of retro styles from The Band (“Easter’s Child” borrows the tempo of “Up on Cripple Creek”), Big Star (the humorous “Rock Star” with the lyrics She wears her sunglasses just like two stained-glass windows/And she can pierce your soul/And she can sure rock and roll, boys),  and the power pop of Badfinger (“Feel Better Love Better”), Emitt Rhodes (“Little Mama”) along with other rootsy rockers from the ’60s and ’70s. They harmonize like family too, and even if no one will mistake them for The Everly Brothers (although they give it their best shot on the country/folk rocking “Early Pages”) the Bee Gees or the Beach Boys, there is a noticeable Finn Brothers styled similarity in their voices. Better still, unlike other musical sibling outfits (Oasis, The Kinks), they actually like each other as expressed in “Said Too Much” with the lyrics Hating your brother is lame.

The Gabbard Brothers album/Courtesy of Missing Piece Group

There’s an easy flow to songs such as “Hazard KY Bluegrass Grandma” but only one of these tracks (the James Gang styled “Gimme Some of That”) is informed by the deeper, duskier blues of their full-time gig with the Keys. The overall vibe is more ’60s West Coast rock, indebted to Buffalo Springfield on tunes such as the closing “Lay Down” with stinging strummed guitar and vocals sounding like a combination of Joe Walsh and Neil Young.

Each track reverberates with fizzy delight and a frisky, crispy clarity that puts the listener in the (germ-free) studio with them. The twosome swings through these 12 tunes with contagious enthusiasm and energy that is never studied or calculated. It’s remarkably organic sounding for a project that exists because of its multiple overdubs. But it shows how accomplished these brothers are as they effortlessly create such accessible, occasionally thoughtful pop-rock without outside assistance. 

Photo Credit: Mitch LaGrow/Missing Piece Group

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