CQAF: The Lost Brothers – Black Box, Belfast
Malojian – our support act this evening – is Stevie Scullion. Sometimes he expands his talent to encompass a full band, sometimes he goes it alone.
Both are completely different beasts but both are Malojian through and through. Tonight it’s a two-piece.
Stevie picks his guitar and absent-mindedly sucks on his harmonica, as at ease as if the audience aren’t there at all but they’re very much there, silently hanging onto his every muttered word. He’s joined on double bass by Joe McGurgan, a strong, silent type at the side of the stage who surprises us all by breaking his aura of silence, uttering a backing vocal or two here and there. It’s a series of high, eerie notes he produces, an almost echo that’s weirdly fitting to give depth to Scullion’s modest everyman singing.
It’s unhurried but never plodding, the bowed bass adding a thrum to the twang, a power that fills the room. ‘Bathtime Blues’ is introduced bashfully, a Lennon & McCartney-esque playful song that started as a washtime joke with his toddler daughter that contains a whistled chorus, and is perhaps the only song we hear tonight that has been written on the toilet… Or the only one admitted to. An unusual addition, and one that many musicians wouldn’t include, it definitely has its place, adding brevity to the sadness contained in some of the other songs. New album Southlands is officially released on May 18th but it can be purchased here, and the much-talked about single ‘Communion Girls’ is showcased, a premier for many of the ears here. Scullion downplays the song as he downplays everything, describing it as a child’s Bruce Lee fantasy of rescuing friends from The Troubles, but despite his attempt to give it a humorous bent it is still a song about the Troubles, and we treat it with reverence, seeing the serious songwriting for what it is. Malojian isn’t the very oldest style of Americana. If anything, it recalls 60s San Francisco, when the dreamers strummed and protested in short, barely finished bursts.
The Lost Brothers aren’t brothers, they’re Mark McCausland and Oisin Leech. They also don’t seem to be particularly lost. If the tales Oisin tells between songs are anything to go by they’ve navigated their way around the world, playing in Los Angeles, Oregon and spending quite a lot of time sitting outside George Harrison’s house in Liverpool, bothering the neighbours. Opening with ‘Gold and Silver’ we notice a clarity to them. Each song is a finished tapestry that they re-embroider in front of us with their flat, honest storytelling. If Malojian are the 1960s recreation of Americana then The Lost Brothers are from the era before, the original mountain-crafted songs rather than any sort of throwback homage. Harmonies are so close they’re impossible to unravel, delivered with as much natural ease as The Everly Brothers. ‘Now That The Night Has Come’ safely straddles the line that they might be accused of coming too close to. That line of being so simplistic we feel we’ve heard each song a thousand times before but we welcome this recognition instead of sneering at the obviousness.
Oisin is obviously the appointed spokesperson for the group, the only word that crosses Mark’s lips during the whole hour and fifteen minutes set is a brief “Cheers”. Leech doesn’t mind though, telling us they’re selling the new album at the merch stand, along with a few handbags if we’re lucky. New album New Songs of Dawn and Dust features heavily during the show, ‘Soldier Song’ and ‘Poor, Poor Man’ evidencing the lack of showboating. There’s no need for it. The beauty is in the subtlety, leaving the stories to breathe on their own even though we already know the ending. It’s not all slow sadness though. They’re not above a rising, repeated riff, an infectious jangle. Beatles cover ‘In Spite Of All The Danger’ brings this and some doo-wop of sorts.
An encore is called for and seems desperately needed, as this audience don’t want to let these two go just yet. Even when the music stops, the congratulatory crowd amass at the merch stand, wanting a piece of these men. When they play, you forget that other musical genres exist. This is it. This is music. Nobody wants to let go of that. Elizabeth McGeown, GiggingNI.com