Sawtooth Brothers – One More Flight
The debut album from unique “double-brother” four piece The Sawtooth Brothers points the way to a credible, musically substantive synthesis of country and rock/pop sensibilities. There’s no pandering to the lowest common denominator here, no paint by numbers refraction of pop structures through a twangy prism, but instead an inestimable tastefulness that toys with formula rather than wallowing in it. It is an immaculately produced outing with perfect sonic balance between the relatively narrow range of musical elements and the songwriting never risks self-indulgence. Instead, this is a collection of concise and minimalist songs with understated, even slightly sophisticated, flashes of humor enlivening the writing.
The opener is a perfect example. “Another Cliché” is a streamlined and highly polished lead off song seemingly built from some of the most well-known clichés in our lexicon, but even a slightly deeper listen reveals the artistry employed to tie these hoary phrases into a surprisingly revealing and charming lyric narrative. “Country Road X” has less of a comedic edge, but it still plans off the same base of creative homage. The Sawtooth Brothers are capable of giving a wink and a nod to country music conventions while still focusing on quality songwriting and giving the musical arrangement added pop snap. Melody remains an abiding virtue in each of these songs on One More Flight. Sometimes it manifests itself instrumentally, others vocally, and a little of both often, but easy going charisma and melodic excellence are the bedrocks upon which the band’s songwriting is built.
Melodic strengths are in full evidence on “On Top of the World”. The central guitar figure in the song has, despite its acoustic origins, a strong riffy quality that wouldn’t sound out of place electrified in any rock song. The vocal never overplays its hand, however, while still reaching for some of the strident quality that imbues the song with these rock music echoes. “Summer All the Time” is a surprisingly elegiac offering, firmly in the vein of looking back over days gone by, but avoids sentimentality. “Don’t Go It Alone” is one of the album’s standout tracks thanks to its fantastic balance between muted tastefulness and a strongly rousing quality underscored by the lyrical content.
“The River & You” is another highpoint distinguished by its superb vocal harmonies and another expert weaving of gently melodic, perfectly placed instrumentation. The title song revisits some of the same rock leanings hinted at on “On Top of the World”, but the addition of strings elevates this to another place. This is rustic, yet highly orchestrated, country pop with a decidedly intelligent songwriting edge. It is the final key high point on an album bristling with creativity and scarcely realized promise. The Sawtooth Brothers have discovered a powerful, winning formula for future work and their debut effort leaves a rich, flavorful taste in the listener’s ear. One More Flight is one of the most unassuming, yet fantastically arranged and executed, recordings of 2016.
9 out of 10 stars.