NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Bros. Landreth provides the perfect example of why people travel from all over the world to attend the five-day Americana Music Festival that wrapped up this weekend. It’s one of the few festivals that allows true music lovers to witness the birth of the next generation of roots innovators.
Those who were lucky enough to hear the bluesy, soulful music and soaring harmonies of this Winnipeg, Manitoba, quartet experienced just that.
Joey and Dave Landreth, the two brothers who lead the quartet, sat on the front porch of The Groove, an eclectic East Nashville record shop where they played a showcase. They spoke with awe about joining slide guitar great Ry Cooder and other legends on the Americana Music Festival bill.
“You can ignore talk of music genres because it all comes down to two categories: Music is either honest or dishonest,” Joey, the band’s 27-year-old guitar-playing lead singer and main songwriter, said of what sets this festival apart from other events. “People here are concerned with making honest music and having it heard. That is incredibly affirming. It feels really cool and good.”
Music insiders know exactly what he means. It’s not so much rock country versus roots country in terms of musicianship or songwriting. It’s a hunger to create music that speaks to the artists’ — and hopefully listeners’ — hearts versus that which has the right amount of flash and flair to move it to commercial radio and up the charts.
Some artists are talented and honest enough to achieve both: Porter Wagoner spotted that in Dolly Parton, who went on to become one of the most revered songwriters and performers of her generation. Zac Brown, who started playing at Zac’s Place, the Atlanta-area restaurant he owned with his dad, is another example.
The Bros. Landreth — which includes Joey’s bass-playing brother, David, 29, and drummer Ryan Voth and guitarist Ariel Posen — already has won acclaim for its 11-song debut album, “Let It Lie,” which will be released in January. The whispers of acoustic guitar and gentle percussion on the title track aren’t aberrations. This is a group that lets its original music soar.
Many music lovers who lament the habit of many Americana, country, rock and even folk artists of writing and performing vapid songs liken those artists to the most intellectually insipid frat boys and sorority girls.
If that’s the case, then chief songwriter and frontman Joey Landreth and his bandmates are the brilliant but genial savants who put the words to the love and sorrow we experience.
The music of the Bros. Landreth can be dark — surprising for such spirited, seemingly fun-loving men — but also alluring. You’ll hear that as “Our Love” moves from the jangle of acoustic into a white-hot throb of electric guitar and drums to the Memphis blues of “I Am the Fool,” into the blues-rock of “Runaway Train.”
Critics often write that fans can’t truly appreciate a band’s music unless it’s played live. That’s often untrue. The music of The Bros. Landreth is the rare exception.
Taking the makeshift stage behind The Groove and in front of an array of Americana fans, the band dug into the rootsy blues songs of its album including the standout track “I Am the Fool,” written by the brothers’ musician father, Wally Landreth.
After listening to the AMA set, it was easy to understand why Bonnie Raitt heaped superlatives on the Bros. Landreth’s music after catching its show, at Dwight Yoakam’s recommendation, during this summer’s Winnipeg Folk Festival.
“I haven’t liked a band as much as The Bros. Landreth in a long time,” Miss Raitt said publicly. “To hear this kind of funky, Southern-style rock played with such originality and soul will knock you out.”