The Middle Eight, Lubec
Burlington alt-country darlings The Middle Eight have been promising the release of their debut full-length for a long, long time. Now, a solid six months after word of its release began to spread, the record is finally seeing the light of day. They'll play the Magic Hat Variety Show on Thursday at both Nectar's and Club Metronome.
In this world of mass-marketed, assembly-line pop, it's comforting to see a band take their time. I can tell you -- it was worth the wait.
The group is made up of some of Burlington's best young musicians: brothers Daniel, Tyler and Ariel Bolles, along with Michael Scott Duplessis, Jeremy Gantz and David Stockhausen. The Bolles have the singing-siblings thing down -- they're a Carter family for the 21st century. Adding to the band's depth are the compatible songwriting skills of Dan Bolles and Stockhausen. Each boasts unique compositional styles, yet they achieve the rare feat of having their material blend seamlessly track after track.
Dan Bolles' "St. Judy" opens the record with buoyant banjo picking, chiming, Byrds-style electric guitar and punchy percussion. Duplessis pops up after each chorus, slicing the song apart with swirling, carnivalesque organ solos. A first-rate, lead-off track, it's country-rock polished with Phil Spector's Wall of Sound.
"Easy Chair" and "Wind Me Up" are also prime examples of Dan Bolles' unique talent as a songwriter. In the former, guest fiddler Joe Cleary -- from Vermont's other great family band, The Cleary Brothers -- sets a mournful tone. Bolles delivers the bittersweet lyrics.
Stockhausen is an increasingly impressive guitarist, and he throws down stinging leads on "You Woke Me Up," and "Put Me Down." As a songwriter, he specializes in uplifting country-tinged ballads. "Sun Always Shines" is an appropriately summery slow-burner with a big-hearted chorus. Album closer "Woody Guthrie" is a tender, late-night spiritual with crushingly beautiful harmonies. The track wouldn't be out of place on a Gillian Welch record, which, for anyone not clued in, isn't exactly a bad thing.
Like Whiskeytown's Pneumonia, Lubec is country at heart, but the songs reach beyond the traditional confines of shuffle-and-twang, into lavish three-dimensional pop. But whereas Pneumonia charted a band in disarray and self-destruction, Lubec shows a group just taking flight.