With its second album, Perfect Tragedy, Pittsburgh's Good Brother Earl brings a touch more AOR pop-rock polish to its alt-country and classic-rock roots, yielding a real Pittsburgh crossover sound â€” meaning one that crosses between WDVE and WYEP.
The disc's opener, "Fighting Gravity," rides Paul Fitzsimmons' slide-guitar hook before Skip Sanders' piano opens up the choruses. Joining Dan Paolucci in the rhythm section is new addition Dave Throckmorton, octopus-like drummer for BEAM, who came in partway through the recording process.
The most obvious comparisons for Good Brother Earl's imagistic rendering of the everyday would be late Old 97's, pre-Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Wilco and college-campus favorites Counting Crows. On "6 O' Clock News," the band picks up a bluesy stomp reminiscent of fellow classic-rock/pop crossover Tom Petty's "Mary Jane's Last Dance."
Front and center on all songs is singer Jeff Schmutz's rich baritone. On riff-heavy numbers such as "Girls Make Love Boys Make War," you get the sense that if he blew the lid off a little more he'd approach Chris Cornell territory, were it not for the touch of Adam Duritz mellowing things out. (You also get the sense he didn't grow up around sisters!) For those playing along at home, the song slyly nicks the rhythm from Hendrix's "Foxy Lady," and the lead line from his "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)."
Perfect Tragedy shows a band poised between several competing directions, which it somehow distills into three- to four-minute, radio-friendly nuggets. With a few surprises and a professional sound, it may just be the bump-up this regional band needs to reach a larger audience.