Debonzo Brothers from Raleigh in North Carolina sent their new video “Break My Heart Tonight”. The song instantly hit all the right buttons in my head, and I had to hear their new album to see if it was just a one-off, or if they really had cracked the code to tickle my musical interest.
And let me tell you that “One Damn Heart” does not disappoint! Tens songs safely tucked into the landscape where you will find bands like American Aquarium, Sons of Bill, Drive-By Truckers, Jason Isbell, Son Volt and Whiskeytown.
Debonzo Brothers consists of Jeff and Keef Debonzo on vocals and guitars, and also drummer Chris Hibbard, Jay Shirley on keys and Jimmy Thompson on bass. They previously released the EP “Places”, and their debut album is rock solid and presents very melodic americana complete with great lyrics and well crafted melodies that really catch your attention.
Both brothers sing on the album, which gives you that little piece of variation, making sure you never get tired of one recurring voice. Not that you would, they both have great voices.
But most importantly, they write great lyrics. Several members of American Aquarium have at one point or another been involved with Debonzo Brothers. And gave them the push they needed when they suggested that the Debonzo Brothers share the bill with American Aquarium at a local show in Raleigh. Jeff and Keef got what I like to call the best inspiration there is; Last Minute Panic. They had to write enough songs to fill a set, and I’m guessing they felt the songs had to be good enough to present in front of their friends.
And they did it. With American Aquariums Bill Corbin on bass, Jeff and Keef Debonzo played a set that sounded so good they quickly started looking for new gigs. New members were recruited, some of which left and were replaced before the band found their current lineup during the recording of “One Damn Heart”.
The band released the EP “Places” in 2010, where Joe Kwon from the Avett Brothers were one of the contributors. And recently, they released the reason I’m writing this article – the LP “One Damn Heart”. Members from American Aquarium are among the friends helping them out, and most noticeably Whit Wright kicks ass on the pedalsteel. You can judge the quality of a band by their pedalsteelplayer – and American Aquarium has got one of the best out there.
Lyrically, “One Damn Heart” gives you stories of love, youth and growing up. But they also show us they are good storytellers and impress when doing historic storytelling. “Jesse James” is one such song, trying to put into words what James must have thought and felt while roaming around the old West.
«Disregard from the law
he just took what he saw
’til the day justice shot him down»
Another great example is !1905″. A fascinating tale of Chester Gillette and the murder on his lover Grace Brown. Not being american, the story was new to me – and I had to Google it. And it is a true story, about the rich son of a factory owner, and the factory worker Grace Brown – whom he had gotten pregnant before drowning her during a boating trip on a lake outside New York.
Even though it seems they are off by one year regarding the time of the incident, the song is great and the lyrics are intriguing – enough to make me hit Google to find out more. That doesn’t happen a lot while listening to music…
A good few of their songs have a flowing, dreamy mood in them – just asking to be enjoyed while relaxing in a hammock. Jay Shirleys work on the keys must take credit for that feeling. You sort of feel like you’re floating along on a could of lovely music and lyrics which are rewarding you for the time you spend and you can’t help yourself smiling at the thought of how lucky you are to have such wonderful music going through your ears and into your brain…
Debonzo Brothers finish of the album by giving us a quick insight into their roots, with the 90’s sounding powerpoppy “Bobbie Jean”. This could be the theme song to any american youth tv-series between 1989 and 2001.