Recorded by Jesse Mangum at his Glow Recording Studio just outside of town, the self-titled debut release from the Darnell Boys loses a touch of the spontaneity that the group is known for in its live shows. But all this is to be expected. I can’t imagine any attempt to put these songs to tape (or hard-drive) that wouldn’t diminish their mystique at least a bit. These songs were made to revel in the ephemerality of live performance.
Slick production techniques can hardly denigrate the tunes’ underlying quality, though, and The Darnell Boys is made up of solid songs that, although they might sound like early 20th Century traditionals, will hold up for quite some time. The album moves quickly through its dozen tracks, with the majority of them clocking in at under three minutes. This means, among other things, that the group’s individual performances take a backseat to the songs themselves.
This isn’t to say that the contributions of brothers Austin, Caleb and Gus Darnell (with help from bassist Elijah Neesmith and junkyard percussionist Patrick Weise) aren’t impressive in themselves. The electric leads throughout the record are effectively bluesy without being the least bit cheesy. The rhythm sections on “One More Train” and “High & Lowdown,” for example, are representative of the band’s instrumental prowess. The harmonica playing on “Ruby” may be restrained, but it’s proof that the band knows the virtues of prudence. The Darnells’ vocal harmonies sound effortless, but are a real treat. Do yourself a favor and indulge in this fine release. 3 out of 5.
The Darnell Boys play the Caledonia Lounge on Friday, June 7.
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