Sons of the Never Wrong,
One If By Hand
(Gadfly Records, 2000)

Sons of the Never Wrong are nothing if not original. It may take a few spins for this record and its motley group of songs to really get under your skin, but if you give it a chance, it will. The band is made up of Bruce Roper (vocals, guitar, keyboard), Deborah Lader (vocals, guitar, banjo, mandolin, spoons) and Sue Demel (vocals, guitar, strumstick). They share songwriting duties as well.

As important as the lyrics and the music is the cadence of the speech in the songs, which adds to the originality of the sound of this band. Seriously catchy pop music and classic folk vocal stylings combine with unusual lyrics to make something original.

The opening track, Roper's "Madame Butterfly," is a fantastical yarn that begins by simply saying "Hello." The three-part harmonies are introduced right away and are an important part of each song -- the voices of the three band members blend remarkably well and sound strong on their own. Voices weave together as the band members sing as many as three songs at once. The background vocals are never simply background -- they are their own song.

Demel's poignant "Comet," a love song on a cosmic scale, is mournful, with a piano/cello accompaniment. "One Simple Question" is Roper's song of heartache. Again, the band takes full advantage of the three voices to fill out the sound of the song. Mandolin and guitar accompany the narrative, with a somber cello during the bridge. "Hallelujah for the Getaway" is a quirky song about childhood and parable, with a much more country style than the rest of the record. The rolling cadence of the speech combines with the music for a decidedly upbeat song.

Lader's "Magnetic Poetry," with its vocabular theme, is an interesting love song about little magnetic words. Again, unlike anything I'd ever heard before. "Teva" is another of Roper's love songs that sneaks up on you. Each verse is an itemization of the qualities of his lover -- seemingly insignificant things; but each ends with an endearing realization, like "And L. Ron Hubbard had a web page she was taken with at a certain age, but when I found her she was standin' in the rain."

Sons of the Never Wrong have a lot of talent between the three of them -- and a quirky sense of humour and outlook on life that will only serve to make their songwriting and performing a bright spot on the horizon of American folk music.

[ by Rachel Jagt ]

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