Hailing from Kitchener, Ontario, and taking their name from enigmatic graffiti adorning a prominent railroad bridge, Mike and Diana Erb have their feet firmly planted in traditional country roots. Indeed, their aptly titled debut album, Old Fashioned Way, featured songs by such legends as the Carter Family, the Louvin Brothers and Hank Williams. Flesh And Bone however, while drawing on those influences (although ‘She’s With Me’ leans to Paul Simon), is almost entirely all their own work.
It opens in fine form with ‘Next To You’, on old time country sounding song of domestic happiness marred by a legal misunderstanding, twangsome guitar paving the way into the steady chug love song ‘Show You Mine’ about how actions speak louder than words, or as they put it, “it’s not about how deep it runs, but how the current flows”.
Musically, ‘Two Step’ lives up to its title as Diana sings of finding love on the dancefloor before more serious concerns rear their head on the waltzing blues-tinged shuffle of ‘Black Coffee’, echoing personal experiences of infertility and miscarriage. Similarly, Mike on sensitive lead, the weeping steel and dobro-backed acoustic ballad ‘Part Of Me’ was inspired by the courage of friends to come out, even when married, changing the structure of their families in the process, while, a rousing fiddle-led hoedown, ‘Poor Orphan Child’, Mike echoing Diana on the chorus lines, addresses family from another perspective.
The song is, of course, a cover of the Carter Family classic and one of two non-originals on the album, the other being a more uptempo bluegrassy pedal steel-backed version of the ‘This World Is Not My Home’, originally sung by Jim Reeves and written by his wife, Mary.
Staying with the swing tempo and pedal steel, Diana takes lead on the brushed drums jaunty ‘Confessin’ Profession Blues’, a playful look at how the other man’s grass always seems greener before returning to the kinfolk theme with another slow waltz, ‘Family Roots’. They close up with Mike taking lead on the soulful, organ-backed slow waltz ‘Rudy’s Song’, written for his late brother but essentially about always being there to provide support for a friend in need and, even when things don’t turn out as hoped, serve as a reminder that those that cared did what they could and they were never alone.
Albums that arrive out of the blue like this are one of the reasons why we as music critics do what we do. Flesh And Bone is a terrific find.
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‘Family Roots’ – official video: