Our Band — “Bright As You”
Musical couples in country music run the gamut, from the even-death-won’t-do-us-part eternality of Johnny and June to, well, what actually DID end The Civil Wars? Turns out, putting sensitive, artistic folks in a (frequently literal) box to work together can sometimes cause simmering emotions to boil over. However, that level of turbulence isn’t requisite to making good music. The debut album from Our Band, composed of Sasha Papernik and Justin Poindexter, combines the talents of two artists from vastly different backgrounds bringing their stories and lives together on Bright as You.
Poindexter, raised in North Carolina and the son of a country singer and a school teacher, and Papernik, a first-gen Russian-American and a classically trained pianist, met in New York and started playing separately and together before signing up as ambassadors with the US State Department, touring Europe and, eventually, committing to an album. That long path toward combining styles (and lives) shines on Bright as You, as does their common appreciation for cultural touchstones. “Priscilla,” inspired by the sounds from an antique radio, borrows from the legend of none other than Elvis to show us a man who misses his ideal love – “Makes me sad to think you’re on your own/Priscilla come home.” Balancing the 50s references and reverb is a nifty accordion line from Papernik. The tile track melds early 60s harmonies with 90s melancholia (and more delicious accordion licks) for a trip through an unsatisfying past – “Reached out so many times/Then withdrew” – before finding happiness in the present – ”There’s no flame/Shining as bright as you.” Papernik, too, has her favorites, managing to combine George Jones, “Jolene” and French artist Toulouse Lautrec in “Painting,” a piano-driven look at those folks around us who seem to exist on a just slightly higher plane – “You’re like a painting that I want to touch/You invite me in but I’m not part of it.”
Poindexter and Papernik also succeed at turning past, pre-coupling experiences into intriguing duets. “Out with a Girl” is a pretty acoustic number that Poindexter initially wrote solely from a male perspective – “Out with a girl who I don’t love/But she might love me.” At Papernik’s suggestion, however, Our Band turned it into a true duet, with both singers playing the reluctant cad – “I’ll just sit and I’ll get lit/Listen to him/her talk.” It rings true because I’ll wager that anyone listening, man or woman, has been on each side of that table at one point or another.
The duo’s best moments together come in their harmonies. “Roads That Rise (Gayle’s Song)” recalls old-timey country story songs, and Papernik takes the lead here, but their vocals together will fill that vacant spot in your soul left by The Civil Wars (and one hopes for a happier ending). And the duo revisits its touchstones (and shares their love of good road music) once more in the medley “Wildwood Flower/Wildflowers.” Beginning with a song made popular by The Carter Family and including a piano interlude that recalls George Martin, Tom Petty’s classic is re-imagined as a duet. Petty fans have long wondered if he was singing “Wildflowers” to say goodbye to a partner or to comfort himself. With Our Band, we can imagine both.
Song I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: “Roads That Rise,” for the harmonies alone. But I wouldn’t turn down a good Petty cover, either…
Bright as You was produced by Sasha Papernik and Justin Poindexter, recorded by Sam Owens and mixed and mastered by Mike Gibney (“Roads That Rise” was produced and recorded by Paul Defiglia). All songs (save “Wildwood Flower/Wildflowers”) were written by Papernik and Poindexter, with Sam Reider chipping in on “More than Friends.” Additional musicians on the album include David Amram (French horn, flutes), Oliver Beardsley (drums, percussion), Leon Boykins (bass), Paul Defiglia (bass), Will Clark (drums), Rohin Khemani (percussion), Jeff Picker (bass), Rob Hecht (violin), Melissa Tong (violin), Eddie Barbash (saxophone) and Travis Calvert (saxophone).
Pre-save and pre-order Bright as You (out June 25) here:
Go here to check for tour dates: https://www.ourband.org/live