Reviews John Cate & The Van Gogh Brothers X

John Cate & The Van Gogh Brothers


The newest John Cate & The Van Gogh Brothers album X has been released and I am happy to say it does not disappoint. The album has twelve tunes on it that fit well with what you have come to expect from John and the band, great melodies, three part harmonies, and lyrics that make you think. I have been lucky to see these guys many times in a small local club and you can always count on them putting on an awesome show. At the CD release show they played X start to finish and you could feel the energy of the music and the crowd building throughout the night. Band members include John Cate (lyrics / vocals) on Acoustic guitar; Paul Candilore (vocals) on lead guitar; Clayton Young (vocals) on Bass and Steve Latt on Pedal Steel, Banjo, Mandolin and violin; and drum contributions from no less than four people, Dave Mattacks, Andy Plaisted, Anthony Resta and Tauras Biskis.

The opening tune California is a rocker that brings Tom Petty to mind from the start, solid lyrics and a tasty lead from Paul make it a great lead-in to the record. John has a knack of writing lyrics that aren’t cluttered with wasted words. With the three part harmonies, evident in their live show and the excellent pedal steel, bass, and drums this song is one of my favorites.

In the song Doubt John sings about change and how the biggest thing holding people back is doubt. And as expected the pedal steel really fills in this beautifully and lyrically makes you think about where you want to go in life and why people tend to hold themselves back.

After the brief instrumental Affirmation, the album transitions into a great Americana song Piece of Me. This is the type of song these guys do very well, great duets, harmonies, banjo and the drummer (Dave Mattacks) playing brushes on his leg and using a cardboard kick. With lyrics like:

"Now the midday sun is behind my window
I want you to know
There’s a piece of me that still won’t let you go

Looking back I see where we went wrong
Live is bitter when it gets so strong"

Only Rain is another great Americana tune with lush harmonies, and the lonely wailing pedal steel playing. Throughout the album it seems as though the band has been through a lot and is using this opportunity to clear the memories and move on to the future.

"It won’t be long before the skies are blue
You won’t remember much of me and you

Gone For Good is another guitar driven rocker with blistering leads, almost caustic lyrics saying:

A part of me I lost is finally gone

And it’s gone for good
Down the memory chute
Gone for good
You’ll get all of me, yea"

Georgia & Alfred is an older composition that never made it on to any of their earlier albums, one of the best of the bunch, Steve Latt plays the mandolin on this one really gives it some flavor while the songs intensity builds throughout. This song has lyrical references to Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, two great artists romantically linked in the past:

"I wanna fell the mystery
I wanna feel you close to me
Make love until the night is through
Like Georgia and Alfred in Mexico"

Another instrumental Dreamers kind of reminded me of something from the band Hotels, with a nice trippy sci-fi feel to it due to the pedal steel guitar, cello and the haunting guitar lines.

The next three songs seem to be a catharsis of when things in life go off in a different direction than what was hoped or planned. All I want is a stripped down soul baring acoustic number, Come To Know Me Well where the full band backs John, really showcases their Americana flavor and All In Life Remains follows in the same vein both singing about change and moving on in life.

Closer American Night is another song that was written awhile ago but it fits seamlessly with the rest of the songs on the album, with a steady drumbeat and a background mandolin John sings “Some things will change and some will pass by”.

Life is all about change and how well you adapt to it, great album that’s getting a lot of play on my iPod.

9.0 / 10Scott Wilkinson
See also
KFAI - Roar of the Underground
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