December 2003

The Cash Brothers - A Brand New Night
Zoe Records CD - 011 431 034-2
Released: 2003

by Joseph Taylor

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ***
Overall Enjoyment ***

Andrew and Peter Cash decided to collaborate in 1996 after each had pursued a number of music projects on his own in Canada since the late '80s. They released two discs there, Raceway (1999) and Phonebooth Tornado (2000) before debuting in the US with the well-received How Was Tomorrow in 2001. A Brand New Night, their newest disc, should solidify their critical standing and help them build the following here they deserve.

Both musicians had extensive recording and playing experience before recording together, and on A Brand New Night it shows - - they sound confident and their playing has a sure touch. The disc has a hint of alt-country twang that at first struck me as trendy, but the songs are so good and so honestly presented that I kept returning to them. It’s obvious the Cashes have listened closely to American country and rock music (there’s a strong Bruce Springsteen feel to "You’re It"), but they write unique melodies and their lyrics are filled with concrete, memorable images.

Andrew Cash’s guitar playing is perhaps the biggest reason A Brand New Night comes across so well. He fills the songs with simple touches, such as the octave runs in the chorus to "Shadow of Doubt," that stay with you as much as the tunes themselves. He can be flashy ("Give Me Your Hips"), but most of the time he chooses to play uncomplicated, precise lines that give the songs momentum and a powerful foundation. His 12-string-guitar solos in "Dealing with the Distance" are just a few well-chosen notes each, but they’re honest and moving.

The same is true of the songs on A Brand New Night, which Andrew and Peter co-wrote. They have an unforced, easy quality that might cause you to miss how good they are. I was struck immediately by how sincerely felt the disc was, and how well played, but it took some time for me to realize that the songs grabbed me as strongly as the performances. Lyrically the Cashes know when to keep it simple, as they do in the gorgeous "Feel Another Way," but they can also write lines that wrestle with, for example, the confusion of living in the information age:

Hear the newsprint hit the pavement
Hear the stamp pad hit the statement
It’s an afterthought you could do without
That’s the sound of a shadow of doubt

Occasionally they lose their sure touch with lyrics ("Well the wind is picking up/’cause all I can hear is it blow" on the otherwise excellent "Dealing with the Distance") and one or two mediocre songs work because of the performances and the sheer conviction of the singers. But this is a disc that reveals itself slowly and deepens with repeated listens.

A Brand New Night would have benefited from better sound. The drums are a little muddy and they’re pulled back in the mix. In addition, there’s not enough separation between Peter’s and Andrew’s vocals - - they harmonize in fairly close intervals and you can’t really place their voices well in the recording. Worst of all, some of Andrew’s best guitar work is buried (I picked a lot of it up on headphones). The recording is not unlistenable, but it certainly does not serve the musicians or the songs as well as it should have.

Despite that reservation, I spent a lot of time with A Brand New Night and found new things in it every time. This disc contains hints that the Cash Brothers have it in them to make even better records in the future. Unlike some of the alt-country bands with which they have been compared, their records are full of real feelings, beautifully and honestly expressed.