Sawtooth Brothers – One More Flight
The debut collection from The Sawtooth Brothers marries the creative forces of two separate brother combos into a cohesive four piece with songwriting skill and instrumental chops to burn. One More Flight, at first listen, might seem a relatively modest and likable effort to many listeners, but even a cursory second listen will reveal added layers. Their method of pulling songs off relies every bit as much on tasteful understatement as it does a strong command of the genre’s fundamentals, but they find a memorable synthesis of pop, rock, and country music in this impressive package. One More Flight never overreaches, but it is a collection demanding to be taken seriously on its own merits and appreciated for its invention.
Invention is in full evidence on the album’s opener. Some might hear “Another Cliché” as a bit of tired songwriting fluff, but appraising it in such a way loses the point. The raison de entre of this track isn’t as a placeholder for a better missing opener, but instead it flashes listeners an extended glimpse of the Sawtooth Brothers’ unquestionable ability to pour new wine into old bottles. The album takes a turn towards beautiful melancholy on the exquisitely wrought “What’s Her Name”, a song milking a formula as old as popular song yet, once again, pulling it off with such easy going aplomb that listeners will forgive any hint of trope or… cliché. What separates them from imitation and mimicry is absolute sincerity – songs like “What’s Her Name” never play in a calculated way but, instead, emerge like sonic pages ripped from their lives. “Summer All the Time” continues in a similarly nostalgic thread, but this time without the trappings of lost love. Instead, this song bemoans lost youth, but it never comes at the listener like some self-serving pity party. Sawtooth Brothers delve into some deep emotional waters throughout One More Flight but, tellingly, never allow themselves to drown in self-indulgence.
“Blame It” is probably the album’s zenith in terms of humor and that’s saying something. The Sawtooth Brothers never bring anything too ribald or crude to the table and, instead, the ample humor strewn through the lyrical narratives has a more observational quality and sense of life’s inherent absurdities. The title “I Should Be Going” hints at the same good natured joviality, but it’s actually one of the album’s more sensitive turns and infused with a bittersweet quality that marks a welcomed variation of the mood on the album’s second half. The final moment on One More Flight, “Take Me Away”, has a gently cascading quality wholly appropriate for its lyrical inventions. The interspersing of acapella verses around the direct, simple mandolin line gives it a lightly charming quality that elegantly closes the album.
One More Flight makes use of customary instruments, but the arrangements are far from that. There is a recognizable quality in the playing and songwriting, however, that grounds One More Flight and The Sawtooth Brothers in a long tradition without leaving them hidebound to invoke it at every turn.
9 out of 10 stars.