The Sumner Brothers

I'll Be There Tomorrow

Ryan Adams said it right when he said, “To Be Young (is to be sad, is to be high).” There is something about really honest country music that hits a chord of melancholy that is different than anything else. When done right this kind of restrained, slightly-twanged music can strike a raw nerve. It can invoke that kind of world-crushing heaviness while leaving a sliver of light at the end of the tunnel. “I’ll Be There Tomorrow” by the Sumner Brothers is one of those albums. Admittedly, I don’t listen or write about this kind of earnest, alt-country as much as I once did. At one point, however, this kind of sweet sadness was like breathing for me. There is something about being younger where the lows don’t get low enough and there is a need to surrender to something that matches that unnamed sorrow without the shrieking nihilism of punk, or pre-packaged angst that bears its own codified histrionics as a flag. There is a kind of pure sadness that come from the fatalism of country music. “I’ll Be There Tomorrow” by the Sumner Brothers is one of those albums. Sad, but with a glinting sweetness that flickers in the dark.

At least, that is how I like my country music. I have always gravitated towards the Townes Van Zandt’s and the Hank Williams variety more than the boot-stompin’, shit-kickin’ variety. The good news is that Sumner Brothers spend most of their time in the first camp: playing beautifully depressing acoustic country numbers. These are mostly hushed and restrained outings filled with ex-girlfriends, departures and romances that start long after the flame has burned out. The brothers take turns singing, each a variation on gin-soaked, golden-throated twanged vocals. One (I can’t tell you which one) is a deeper than deep baritone with ragged edges on the noisier numbers (more on that later); the other Sumner Brother possesses a more delicate voice that breaks and slurs towards the end of phrases like drunk who can no longer support the weight of his own body.

Now, there is that side of the Sumner Brothers. The side of the album that belies the easy categorizations of the alt-country ghetto that “I’ll Be There Tomorrow” miraculously flies over. The side of them where an album cover of collage art with a ripped sign of a Berlusconi campaign poster. The side that encompasses the arcing, floating lap-steel in “The Lord is My Protector” or the surprisingly gorgeous instrumental “I Would Love You In The Kitchen.” But there is also this other side to the Sumner Brothers. The side that would punch that side in its lilly-assed, book-reading nose. That side is the one behind the kinda-unpleasant, kinda-clever “Toughest Man in the Prison Camp” and the straight-burner psychobilly-bordering “That’s Alright.”

Sumner Brothers have been getting some pretty good press lately. While this kind of stuff isn’t our bread and butter, I’ll Be There Tomorrow stretches beyond the No Depression crowd and strikes a chord that is universal among listeners of good music. Which you are. Obviously.

Ryan H.

Sumner Brothers Bandcamp

November 23rd, 2012