Winnipeg is a city packed to the brim with old-time/country/folk/bluegrass groups. This abundance of genre acts makes the struggle to rise above and garner attention that much greater, and all the more intimidating for those just starting out. So when local folkers The Crooked Brothers released their debut album last fall, even after years of playing together in the city, it seemed their day had finally come.
The three-piece is a concise, collaborative effort of singers, songwriters and multi-instrumentalists.
Matt Crooked, the youngest, plays the banjo and guitar and sings with a low growl of a voice that audiences won’t soon forget.
Darwin Crooked, the eldest, plays guitar, dobro and harmonica. He’s someone who will tell an audience he’s gone sober and then sing three songs about drinking.
Jesse Crooked, the middle brother, plays mandolin, harmonica and some of the best dirty-blues-funk guitar this side of Marc Ribot.
Biological or not, Brothers they are.
This past fall, the band secluded themselves in a cabin where they set to work recording their debut, Deathbed Pillowtalk, which was released this past November to much acclaim.
“We recorded it ourselves and tried to bring out the sound of the room more so than typical recordings,” Jesse explained via e-mail. “I think it gives it a warmer feeling. The cabin was heated by a wood stove and we stayed warm with bourbon and fire.”
Since the release of the album, the Brothers have toured across the country from Montreal to Victoria and back again. December isn’t always the best time for a Canadian tour, as nearly every touring band in the country knows full well.
“We got snowed in in Mortlach, Sask. with some (members) of the Deep Dark Woods for three days,” Jesse explained. “Eight-foot snow banks formed overnight – no joke.”
This spring they’ll tour in a bit more style. The Brothers will be hopping aboard an eastbound train, playing shows in Toronto, Hamilton and Kingston. Despite the threesome’s old-time bluegrass roots, the band will not be sleeping in boxcars to get there, but will be seated safely and legally inside their cabins.
Like other Canadian artists before them, they will be singing for their supper and passage, performing in the dining car on their way to and from Ontario.
On Saturday, April 17 the Brothers will be back in town to play a show at the Times Change(d), with British Columbia contemporaries Fish & Bird.
Published in Volume 64, Number 24 of The Uniter (March 25, 2010)