Exposure: Broken Family Band
The Broken Family Band are something of an anomaly. They're a British band (from the heart of folksy Cambridge no less) that have the educated Americana sound of such stateside alt superstars as Calexico or The Decemberists. Lead singer Steven Adams' nasal, American twang is particularly reminiscent of The Decemberists' Colin Meloy's distinctive voice. As all good country fans know, the best written songs are about love and hard times and are gritty and surprisingly morbid – a song-writing style that The Broken Family Band epitomise - but though they started in 2001 as an out-and-out alt-country group, recently they've made a break into a different, rockier sound. Those country influences are still there, but the BFB are now precariously poised to become quite popular, with riffs that echo the tightness and immediate impact of huge bands like The Strokes or Kings of Leon.
What's stopping them becoming big then?
It's a good question, and one that the BFB respond to on their website with the short answer, "You'd be amazed how many people ask that." Another, more informative response, might be that the Broken Family Band have a natural humility that endears them to their fans, but they don't have the cheekiness or the bravado of rock stars.
Is that a bad thing?
No not at all. They've released six albums so far, each time capitalising a little bit on the success of the last and developing a sound slightly further away from their alt-country starting point. Slow, steady, reflective… that's surely preferable over boom and bust.
But what about the influence of UK music? Not every band has to try and be Fleet Foxes.
True, but there is something of a trend at the moment for bands to wistfully look to America for their musical anchor points. BFB lead singer Steven Adams has a personal bugbear about the inability of new British bands to name themselves well (The Pigeon Detectives, Does It Offend You, Yeah?), whereas Texas bands find it easy to pull a great name out of the bag (Knife In The Water, I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness). He has a point.
So when's the next album coming out?
That's a matter of some secrecy. Last offering, Hello Love (2007) was the band's strongest album yet, which leaves us in expectation of another gem for the spring of 09'. The album's title and release label hasn't yet been revealed, but we're promised more information soon.
The Broken Family Band play Oran Mor, Glasgow as part of the Celtic Connections festival on Sat Jan 24.