135 W. 26th Street, Ste. 11B
New York, NY 10001
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Barbara Douglas
Let's get one thing straight from the start: these guys are neither Chinese nor brothers.
What they are is an incredibly talented group of songwriters/musicians who can seamlessly combine folk, rock, and zydeco (among other styles) into a CD that's a joy to listen to.
This was my first exposure to 5 Chinese Brothers, but I can assure you it won't be the last. I don't necessarily agree with the comments from Stereo Review: "they demonstrate the same rocket-in-the-pocket pluck as the early Beatles", but the Washington Post's write-up is closer to the mark: "they're city slickers with a country heart, and they outshine most of what comes out of Nashville today without even trying".
The title track, Robbie Fulks' Let's Kill Saturday Night is reminiscent of Steve Earle's Angst in Nowhere Road. While the group does a nice job with that song, their genius shines through when performing their own music.
Look At It Rain, written by Paul Foglino, is a wonderful song. It paints a realistic picture of the shortcomings of the human animal. "A dog won't bite you if you treat him right...that's the difference between a dog and a man" pretty well sums it up. Another Foglino song, I'm Not Finished Yet, offers us all a "been there, done that" saga: "Yesterday I thought I was acting like a fool..today I found out I was right". (Sound familiar?? Could I see a show of hands?)
A classic love gone wrong song is I Call My Pain By Your Name, a Tom Meltzer-Foglino collaboration. The last line of the chorus "Is there a hole in your heart where love should be?" speaks volumes with its simplicity. And far too many of us can relate to their My Love for You Has Turned to Hate, a song of a summer romance turned to dust, in which Foglino wrote one of my favorite lines from the CD: "I felt the hot summer sun through my cotton shirt, then I had wine that reminded me of cherries and dirt". If song lyrics are meant to invite us to paint a mental picture, these achieve that goal quite nicely.
Meltzer's songwriting abilities are incredible: here's an individual who can write Jackie Chan, Buster Keaton and Popeye the Sailor into one song and make it work (Three Cool Guys). And Midnight at the Liberty brings back memories of nights long ago: "and we'd complain but we're too stoned, and if we leave we'd have to go back home. Our parents might not be asleep, so we're staying at the Liberty". And his The Boy From New York City, the Girl From Tennessee would be a instant classic in the hands of a mainstream country artist. And, just when you think the whole CD is rather downbeat... he pulls out Product of Dysfunction, by far my favorite cut. (The only other song I could possibly compare it to is Sally Fingerett's TV Talk. ) "I used to think I was just a bum searching for eternal slack...pride, intelligence, motivation, there was nothing I did not lack"...didn't Oprah do a show on that??
All in all this is a most enjoyable CD. The few cuts that fall short, most noticeably "Blue Boy" (although the background vocals of Katrina and Nerissa Nield help) are far outnumbered by the others. If you like Steve Earle, the Delevantes or Todd Snider, give 5 Chinese Brothers a listen. You won't be disappointed. As I said earlier, this was my first exposure to them, but not my last. I'm eagerly awaiting their Christmas CD...who can resist a song title like Missing Miss December?
Edited by Allen Price