THE AHERN BROTHERS
The Ahern Brothers (self-released)
If they were indeed brothers, Josh Rennie-Hynes and Steve Grady would, presumably fight like cats and, well, other cats (like the Everlys) and maybe toss up which one would be the drunk and which one the abstemious one (ala the Louvins).
Or maybe they’d just offer a few years of sublime togetherness that suggested sibling closeness and then decades of acrimony that almost made a mockery of those matched voices (in the manner of should-have-been-brothers Simon & Garfunkel).
In any case, those pairings – and the (so-far-harmonious) contemporary non-siblings Milk Carton Kids, and the genuinely partnered Gillian Welch and David Rawlings - would be the templates possibly conjured up by the “brothers” Ahern as they found their vocal and emotional combination on a trip up the west coast of the USA a year ago.
Twin-voices, twin-acoustics and nothing else - that’s the formula of the album spawned by that trip. Easy enough. But then so is the fact that it’s a cliché, or a whole bunch of clichés, waiting to happen.
Kudos then to Rennie-Hynes and Grady for making a record that skirts, or maybe rises above the clichés by, firstly, not avoiding them altogether (there’s a reason they’re clichés and that is they work and we want them in some forms) and then just trusting in the songs and their combination to make this feel natural.
We get then two voices singing in a relaxed manner suggesting an early start to a late night; guitars picked and strummed languidly as if someone may have just woken from a similarly late night; and harmonies which sound as if they fell into them rather than worked to them, have a charm all to themselves.
Within them are stories from both American and Australian perspectives, carried by a gentle curiosity and a forgiving manner. Some touch on land, town and friendships. Some draw on outlaw tales (a little naively it must be said in 8 Years On The Run, as this is one cliché that’s probably too hard to rise above) and instead of ruined landscapes we get redwoods and rain, movement and interiors.
Of course, songs about travelling are among the aforementioned clichés but it’s not until the final song, Our Last Day, as they sing “we’ve got stories to tell”, that the duo let that one slip by the necessary guards.
In its 30 minutes this album doesn’t change the world but it does comfortably fill a space that doesn’t ask for burdens, just a counter on which to lean.
A good part of the credit I suspect must also go to producer Roger Bergodaz whose light hand could easily be missed until you think about the things that could have been taking up space here. His space is neither claustrophobic nor vast, just intimate enough to focus the mind on the voices and guitars.
So on a marking scale here you’d have to say that since out of eight songs only two really catch on the obvious hooks, and even they are pretty enough to let slide by, this pair haven’t done too badly at all. Mum and dad would be proud.
SPOTIFY: Hear The Ahern Brothers – The Ahern Brothers here
APPLE MUSIC: Hear The Ahern Brothers – The Ahern Brothers here