THE DAUPHINAIS BROTHERS, EMPTY TEARDROPS
This is an instantly likeable album. There are no real holes in it; no point at which to reach for the skip button. Hearing this music immediately reminded me of the first time I heard the Gibson Brothers in the late 1990s. They too drew on the brother styles and melodic, classic sounds of ’50s and ’60s bluegrass/country. Does that imply the Dauphinais Brothers are on the same level as The Gibsons? If you’re looking at songwriting, lead and harmony singing, instrumental ability, personality, and overall performance, comparing this debut to The Gibsons’ breakout release Long Forgotten Dream, then yes, they’re getting close.
The Dauphinais Brothers, originally from New Hampshire and now based near Asheville, N.C., are Nicholas on guitar and mandolin and higher-pitched lead vocals and Lucas on bass and lower-pitched lead vocals. They’re backed wonderfully by mandolinist Griff Martin, banjoist Derek Vaden, and fiddlers Lyndsay Pruett and Don Lewis. Five of the songs, all of them captivating in melody and construction, were written by Nicholas with two others featuring music he put to someone else’s words, including the poem Desert Places by Robert Frost. The rest are covers, such as “North Wind” drawn from Jim & Jesse or newer songs such as “Virginia Lee” by Mark Bumgarner and Charles Humphrey III.
All throughout, you’ll hear sounds reminiscent of the The Louvins, The Dillards or the Osborne Brothers, along with the usual bluegrass legends. This is just great music. Start with Nicholas’ “Storm Of The Year” with its wonderful repeated words that add rhythm and melodic interest. Move to the 3/4 “Above It All” and the Louvinesque “Empty Teardrops.” Then hear the airtight harmonies of the slow country “On The Other Side” and “Dear Friends And Gentle Hearts” and revel in the swing-driven joy of “The One I Loved Most.” Listen to all that and the rest, and see if you don’t find this instantly likeable, too. (Nicholas Dauphinais, 19 Alabama Ave., Weaverville, NC 28787.)BW