As autumn leaves were falling through the crisp air of Piscataquis County, Maine in late 2014, six musicians hunkered themselves down in a cozy cabin near Sebec Lake to make a record. The result is Lights Along the River; the fourth full-length album from Alternative Country workhorses, The Mallett Brothers Band. Since 2009, the band has toured relentlessly, developed a strong following, gained a solid reputation for themselves, and now have four full-length albums under their belts.
The band is fronted by two brothers, Luke Mallett (vocals/guitar) and Will Mallett (guitar/banjo/vocals); sons of Folk icon David Mallett. Behind them are Nick Leen (bass), Wally Wenzel (guitar/dobro/keyboards), Matt Mills (lead guitar/pedal steel/banjo) and Brian Higgins (drums). Originally from Portland, Maine, these natives of The Pine Tree State have created an album as pure and natural as the lakeside setting in which these songs were recorded.
Lights Along the River begins with the extremely likable single, “Late Night in Austin.” The Mallett Brothers have polished their sound proficiently over the years, and this twangy tale of the road is an ideal example of this evolution. Luke’s vocals are passionate and gritty and the chorus is downright infectious. Their distinct fusion of Country and Alternative pays off gratifyingly, and the horizons only broaden as the record plays on.
Songs such as the state-spanning hoedown of “Tennessee” and the ZZ Top-esque “Rocking Chair” show the groups rougher sound, while the bracing, “Don’t Mind the Morning” delivers a more mellow and intimate vibe. Some of the most impressive moments are at the heart of the record. The harmoniously laid-back, “Coronado” and the devilish sound of “Sam Wood” transport you to beautiful places. Their sound is genuinely sincere and paints vivid natural landscapes in the listener’s mind.
Another highlight from the ever-changing Lights Along the River is, “The Irene,” a fervently illustrative folk ballad in ¾ with a sound that is intensely profound. The passion seems endless as the Mallett Brothers continuously deliver from the bottom of the heart. The outcome is always well-rounded, as on the guitar-heavy fourth track, “Les Pauls.” With a backbone of the Blues and their signature Country style up front; the Brothers storm forward with another satisfyingly inspired song.
There certainly is never a dull moment on the Mallett Brothers Band’s highly ambitious fourth record. While acoustic tracks such as “Sunny Day” relax the soul, the upbeat spirit of “There Are No Rules in This Game” stomps through like a runaway freight train. The album’s last song, “Tip Up” serves as almost an encore. This wild and raucous drinking anthem sends us off on a high note after a long and copious musical excursion. The Brothers have kindled an impressive beacon of highly inspired music and this latest effort, Lights Along the River shows the Mallett Brothers Band shining brighter than ever before.
By Joseph Conlon