Whiskey, Women & Death

The Earl Brothers - Whiskey, Women & Death

2004 | Cd Baby 

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All Music Guide Review

The Earl Brothers aren't related, but the close harmonies of siblings like the Stanley Brothers, the Delmore Brothers, and the Louvins are a big part of their sound. Their unique style comes from blending the fancy picking of traditional bluegrass with the songwriting of group leader Bobby Earl Davis who seems to be preoccupied with bad whiskey, cheating women, and self-destruction, the drinkin', cheatin' and hard luck themes of hardcore honky tonk music. If they played electric instruments and had a drummer, the Earl Brothers' songs would sound good blasting out of a booze-and-sawdust-stained honky tonk jukebox. They're unremittingly dark with an old-time music quality that made one critic dub them "Gothic country." Whiskey, Women & Death is true to its title with 12 tunes from the dark side delivered with a downhearted glee. "Been Sittin' Here Drinkin'" opens the disc with a slow, lonesome tale of hopelessness and depression. John McKelvy's high, broken tenor sounds like its coming from the bottom of a deep dark well. "Bender," "Whiskey Bound," and "Don't Drink from a Whiskey Bottle" are variations on the theme, driven home by the band's relentless rhythms, the mournful banjo of Davis, and Steve Pottier's forlorn mandolin. Things are just as dark on the traditional tune "Cluck Ol' Hen" with a slow, apocalyptic bassline that makes it sound like the hen is laying eggs for the Devil's frying pan. "Good Thing Gone Wrong" has an old-time music feel with its don't-trust-the-women theme. The jaunty instrumental work belies its doleful message of loss and betrayal. The band's take on deadly matters ranges from somber to jubilant. The instrumental "Hotel Hell" lets the band show off its fancy pickin', "Hard Times Down the Road" is a slow, lonesome dirge with ominous implications of murder and suicide, while "Bad Road of Regret" celebrates gamblin', drinkin', razorblade fights, gunplay, and general self-destruction. Despite all the doom and gloom, there's something strangely compelling about the songs, making them perfect for a barroom brawl or a 12-step meeting. ~ j. poet, Rovi

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