By Larry Stephens
I love country music—the music of Ernest Tubb, Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, Webb Pierce—I could make a long list. Today there’s a new name for that list, the Malpass Brothers. If you like my kind of country, you’ll love their music.
Christopher and Taylor Malpass are only in their twenties, but they spent several years opening for Merle Haggard, who, of course, is near the top of my list. This CD is produced by bluegrass great Doyle Lawson, but don’t let the bluegrass tag fool you. He knows his way around a country song. Besides brother Taylor playing electric guitar and mandolin and brother Chris playing flattop, they are backed by excellent musicians. Tim Surrett plays acoustic bass while Tony Creasman is on drums and percussion. David Johnson, another top studio musician plays steel guitar, fiddle, and acoustic guitar. Rounding out the group is Jeff Collins, a well–known piano and keyboard player.
Where to start? A song that’s always tugged at my heartstrings is “I Met a Friend of Yours Today.” George Strait did it in 1994 but, for me, the iconic version is Mel Street’s from 1976, all the more because he committed suicide only two years later. Now cue up the Malpass Brothers’ version. They nail it. I love the background voices, provided by Collins, Surrett, Chris Allman, Mylon Hayes and Valerie Midkiff. This is a primer in harmony singing. Another of my top ten favorites (which stretches out several times that long) is Faron Young. Young sang it, Willie Nelson wrote it and sang it, and the brothers do a great rendition of “Hello Walls.” How much do I like it? It’s midnight as I write this and I can’t stop listening.
“A Death In The Family” is a beautful ballad of lost love in classic Bill Anderson style. How true are they to Hank Williams’ “I Just Don’t Like This Kind of Living?” Listen for yourself. You do have your copy of the CD already, don’t you? They are dead–on. They also cover another Williams’ great, “Baby We’re Really In Love.” There are some new songs, too. The brothers composed “I Found Someone To Love” and “Learn To Love Me Too,” both songs of pining love. The latter reflects their relationship with Haggard and you’ll be checking the credits to be sure it’s not a Haggard song. Pete Goble, one of the great writers of bluegrass songs, also turns out some very good classic country. “Here In Alberta I’ll Stay” is the story of a cowboy from Texas who ran out of luck on the rodeo circuit in Billings then found love north of the border. It features lovely melodies from down towards the Rio Grande in Mexican minors, a staple of the late Marty Robbins. And, speaking of Robbins, his “Begging To You” is done is the same slow ballad style as the original.
The Louvin Brothers are loved in both bluegrass and country music. Listen to “Satan And The Saint” and you’ll understand why. You can hear both genre in this song and the brothers played the Louvin Brothers’ guitar and mandolin on the track. They cover a 1959 Wilburn Brothers classic, “Which One Is To Blame” and are just a tad more restrained than Jerry Lee Lewis on a Cowboy Jack Clement number, “It’ll Be Me,” originally issued in 1957 on 78 r.p.m. vinyl.
I read their upcoming dates list three times trying to find a date within reasonable driving distance and I may give myself a birthday present and drive to Madisonville, Kentucky on February 29. I’ll need another copy of the CD by then, anyway, because I’ll have this one worn out.