Do You Love the Sun is the first Scud Mountain Boys record since 1996, when the band released the excellent Massacusetts and then split up. You could argue, though, that the Scud Mountain Boys were never very far away since all three members stayed busy, with Joe Pernice notably continuing on with solo albums, collaborations with brother Bob as the Pernice Brothers, and a few other projects. Pernice’s later work, though, showed more of a pop soul than the country-tinged Scuds records, so those earlier Scud Mountain Boys songs always held a place of fondness in many fans’ hearts.
Excitement began building among those fans when the original members – Pernice, Stephen Desaulniers, and Bruce Tull – convened for a 2011 reunion show and subsequent tour. Now, a little more than two years later, we have Do You Love the Sun. Unsurprisingly – it’s been a long time, after all – the record doesn’t quite pick up where Massacusetts left off. For one thing, Pernice’s pop sensibilities are too strong at this point to suddenly create a carbon copy of a sound from nearly 20 years ago. But there’s still plenty of the country lope and pedal steel that longtime fans expect.
The country load is mainly carried by Desaulniers, who repeatedly begins each of his songs with a croon so pure and deep that you’d swear someone started playing one of Johnny Cash’s American Recordings. The faithful country sway of “Crown of Thorns”, murder ballad “Orphan Girl”, and “You’re Mine” link the band to its past and anchor the album’s emotional tone. The band also offers a delicate, mandolin-driven cover of John Barry’s instrumental “Theme from Midnight Cowboy”.
For his part, Pernice brings his world-weary voice, lyrics, and sense of humor. “Double Bed” conveys pure heartbreak through its tale of disposing of an old mattress, letting slip some lyrical double-speak along the way (“Double bed, could I double my money / Double talk my whole way through”). “The Mendicant” sets the stage for its faux-epic tale with “I eat a chocolate rabbit and watch Captain Kangaroo / my wife trades her life for money while the kid’s at school”. Of course, in songs like “Drew Got Shot” (“Don’t tell my family how I screamed when I died / Don’t tell my father or the one I loved”), Pernice can also be solemn to devastating effect.
In either case, be it Pernice’s or Desaulnier’s updated takes on the Scud Mountain Boys sound, Do You Love the Sun favors a low-key, down- to mid-tempo vibe. Whatever may have happened since the mid-‘90s, and whatever other projects the members may have worked on, this reunited band hasn’t lost sight of the kitchen table that witnessed so many of the early jam sessions that helped them discover what kind of music they wanted to make. From those humble beginnings, the Scud Mountain Boys crafted a uniquely smart and considered take on their country influences. None of that is lost on this often quiet and meditative record.
// Notes from the Road
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