When you pair up a musical vision from both Faun Fables’ Dawn McCarthy and Bonnie “Prince” Billy (a.k.a Will Oldham) and have them create a tribute album to the Everly Brothers, you’re asking for a musical delicacy. What the Brothers Sang (Drag City, 2013) perfectly blends a harmonious mixture of indie rock, folk and little bit of soul. While the duo might not be the first ones to explore this feat (the Everly Brothers have a long list of legendary musicians who have paid homage to the band including Bob Dylan), they’re nothing short of masterful on this record. With thirteen songs, each one is individual in nature and yet still holds true to Everly Brothers’ ‘60s folk sound, bridging the generational musical gap.
Kicking off the album is “Breakdown,” a simple three-minute song that is both despondent and forlorn, a curious and risky choice for a leading song but the duo also selected some more whimsical tracks to remake. “Milk Train” is as vibrant as ever and “Somebody Help Me” follows not far behind to continue the musical elation with a slightly honky-tonk twist. McCarthy and Oldham also put their own spin on these classic songs. “So Sad” proves successful with airy and harmonized vocals over light guitars while “Omaha” and “Kentucky” are slow and meaningful, taking their time to lay out the lyrics properly, and perfectly match the beats.
Whether you’re a fan of the Everly Brothers or you’ve never heard of them, McCarthy and Oldham found a way to stay true to the songs and to their work as artists, a tribute that Don and Phil Everly would be proud of.