By Mike Dunn
Through a career notable for sonic twists, Vancouver’s Sumner Brothers follow up the dark, energetic tone of their 2015 release, The Hell In Your Mind, with the reflective and gentle To Elliot – In Remembrance Of Wolf. The album is a collection of instrumentally spare covers by a who’s who of roots songwriters, including Billy Joe Shaver, Warren Zevon, and Bruce Springsteen.
Brothers Bob and Brian Sumner keep the arrangements light and tight to the originals on To Elliot. Brian’s plaintive drawl on Springsteen’s “The Ghost Of Tom Joad” and Zevon’s “Carmelita,” allows the melody and lyrics to shine through – the latter getting a relaxed electric guitar and subtle female harmony to go along with the mellow cantina vibe. Bob’s baritone is haunting on his take of The Tragically Hip’s classic album cut “Scared,” and on Jolie Holland’s “Damn Shame.” For those aware of Zachary Lucky or Colter Wall, Bob’s timbre will sound immediately familiar, its tenderness belied by a gruff, aged tone, the kind of vocal people often call that of “an old soul.”
The Sumner Brothers are one of Western Canada’s best underground roots acts, and their taste in quality songs is evident on To Elliot – In Remembrance Of Wolf. It’s easy enough to play covers everyone has heard. But when an artist digs a little deeper and shows their audience something farther removed from expectation, the listener gets to experience a piece of the artist’s inspiration.Independent, The Sumner Brothers, To Elliot – In Remembrance Of Wolf