The Lost Brothers have earned themselves quite a reputation in Ireland but haven’t made too many waves outside of it. Songwriter, producer, and now-label head Brendan Benson is trying his best to prevent that from happening. Their US debut The Passing of the Night clearly exhibits why Benson’s taken enough stock in them to sign them to his label and produce the record; it’s a very strong record. The Lost Brothers have been playing together for years and it shows immediately.
There are subtle nuances scattered all throughout The Passing of the Night that you simply won’t find listening to a band whose members aren’t familiar with each other. The small complementary musical accents sometimes say more than the actual lyrics of these songs which is both a blessing and a curse. While the Lost Brothers are an incredibly strong and surprisingly complex musical tandem, the exactness and familiarity can overshadow the songs themselves. That said, on nearly every track of The Passing of the Night the instrumentation is more impressive than the lyrics. However, the lyrics aren’t anything to scoff at either. When the band strikes the balance perfectly on songs like the record highlight “Far Side”, the result is absolutely transcendent and shows greater promise from an already impressive band.
When The Passing of the Night hits its mid-section with the trio of “Now That the Night Has Come”, “Widow Maker” and “Tumbling Line” it already feels lived-in and welcoming. When “Now That the Night Has Come” hits, it also begins to feel more expansive, thanks to an exceptionally talented band of musicians that came together to help them make this (operating under the name the Lost Brotherhood), including Gill Landry (Old Crow Medicine Show), Brad Pemperton (the Cardinals), Paul Brainard (M. Ward/Richmond Fontaine) and Andrew Higley (Ben Folds). Following that exploratory burst, “Widow Maker” and “Tumbling Line” both have sparsely assisted starts that eventually evolve into more curious territory that toys with small xylophones and whistling. The latter portions of both of those songs prove that the band’s a little bit more interesting when reaching outside of the traditional.
The Passing of the Night really comes into its own in the last stretch of songs. The Josh Ritter-esque “Blinding Glow” is probably the best embodiment of the band’s aesthetic and personality on the record and marks one of the rare moments where the band capitalized on a stripped-back traditional approach. “Blinding Glow” also boasts a gorgeous orchestral assist that’s buried in the mix but adds a few dimensions despite its minimization. As “Blinding Glow” winds down there’s a beautiful transition to the organ-led “Blue Moon in September”, an off-kilter song dealing with mortality and acceptance. “Blue Moon in September” has its best moment in its closing with layered organs and a treble-heavy guitar acting together in perfect harmony.
“Hey Miss Fannie” and “Until the Morning” are the songs that close The Passing of the Night. The former is a jaunty line-dance type of number which feels both uncharacteristic of the record it has a home on and like it’s the work of another band entirely. It’s inclusion is a mildly bewildering moment that’s thankfully over relatively quickly. “Until the Morning”, on the other hand, is one of the record’s strongest tracks and again finds the Lost Brothers excelling when they step a little bit outside of their traditional sound. There’s a beautiful pedal-steel arrangement and a surprisingly effective echo-heavy guitar that opens the song and carries it through to its moment of beautiful finality, transitioning perfectly into a wash of pedal-steel. That transition may very well be the best moment on The Passing of the Night and another indicator of what the Lost Brothers are capable of.