Brothers of Mercy is composed of Steven Collins who spent twenty years fronting the ethereal Americana outfit Deadman and also has worked as a producer for other artists and instrumentalist Scott Davis who has toured around with numerous acts and has also served as a record producer for several artists. But all that aside the pair wanted to come together to make a record that was spare and melodic and not tarnished by any sort of studio tricks. That idea has been turned into the sparse and rather melodic soft alt country folk on Sentimental Man.
The opening track also called “Sentimental Man” begins with finger picked acoustic guitar and had that sort of beautiful build (though they stretch it out longer here) that Paul McCartney has on the pure and simple “Blackbird.” As it progresses we get a bit of sonic transmission and possible fuzziness that erupts and then fades away just as quickly. The harmonies between these two artists also had me feeling a little CSNY. They’re beautiful and really make you feel the song in a way that only the really best songs can. They do this again on the Simon and Garfunkel-esque “Solemn Winds” which is as classic a sad song as I’ve ever heard and I’ve heard a lot of them. One really starts to understand this simplistic idea that Brothers of Mercy is trying convey with this record.
On “The Hope That I Believe In” which is mostly instrumental the tone is that of solitude and that the vocals come late just seemed to me to be determinate of the pairs work as producers for quite a while. They just seem to know where to put things and where not to put them. It is in this way that each song is like a surprise. “Spotlight Angel” is another example of how the simplicity of acoustic guitar and harmonized vocals can construct a world out of thin air. And just the pure magical simplicity of the closing track, “Sons and Daughters” with its bits of what sounds like the quiet needle scratch of a record in the few moments after it has ended, makes the song just that much more dynamic.
Brothers of Mercy’s Sentimental Man is a welcome addition to the folk and Americana cannon. These sparse and beautiful songs have a great power and they will stay with you long after the record is over.
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