adam and David Moss began earning comparisons to Everly Brothers long before they officially joined as folk duo The Brother Brothers. But not even the late Phil and Don Everly, one of the greatest DNA-sharing duos in modern music history, could claim the kind of vocal symmetry created by Adam and David. The harmonies don’t come any closer than those sung by siblings hatched from the same egg.
The twins, raised in Peoria, Illinois, weren’t much older than toddlers when they started singing with the Everlys, beach boys and other artists their father played for them. Lulled each evening by the white album of the Beatles, they composed their own harmonies to accompany Paul McCartney‘s vocal on “I Will” when they were 6 years old.
This song was one of the firsts they chose for their third Compass Records release, Cover to Cover (released 8/5/22) on which they pay homage to formative influences and favorite songwriters with a mix of beloved classics and songs they want more people to hear – each filtered through the brothers’ unique musical blend of folk, bluegrass, jazz and other idioms.
Among their eclectic picks: “That’s How I Came to Memphis” by Tom T. Hall Jackson Brown‘s “These Days,” James Taylor“You can close your eyes” Hoagy Carmichael“I get along very well without you (except sometimes)” Robert Count “Feelin’ Good Again” by Keen Richard Thompson“Waltzing’s for Dreamers”, “There’s A Rugged Road” by Judee Sill and tom is waiting“The Tomb of the Flower. They also chose Harley Allen’s “High Sierra”, popularized by Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt on their album Trio II and “If You Ain’t Got Love”, by Louisiana dance group Chas Justus de Lafayette The revellers.
Of course, they didn’t just choose tracks based on popularity or admiration. Everyone has a story, a connection. Some, like “I Will” and “Feelin’ Good Again”, represent fond memories – the last of their years in Austin, Texas, during which they attended many REK shows when they weren’t performing. not (Adam in Green Mountain Grass and David in Blue Hit). Others, like “That’s How I Got to Memphis” and “Rugged Road,” were discoveries, products of their own or someone else’s diving.
“We’re music specialists first and foremost; we’re always learning, exploring, finding out who played what and who wrote this and who wrote that,” David explains. They aren’t just casual academics either; both have music degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Their formal musical education began when they entered a magnetic arts school, where they began studying piano and violin in second grade.
“David switched to cello in third grade because he didn’t want to play the same instrument as me,” Adam says. “We wanted to learn other things, but our mother was pretty adamant that we didn’t play horns in the house. No drums.” (He still resents her, he jokes.) David has since added guitar; Adam plays fiddle/fiddle, keyboards and banjo, although Cover to Cover features Alison Brownis banjo work.
It also features Lake Street Dive singer Rachael Price and her sister Emily, on “I Get Along Without You”, Sarah Jarosz, who plays mandolin to fellow Texan Keen’s song and harmonizes on “You Can Close Your Eyes”, Jarosz’s bandmate Jeff Picker, who plays acoustic guitar and bass on “These Days” and Michaela Anne who adds high harmonies on “High Sierra”. The Brother Brothers have toured with Lake Street Dive and Jarosz, as well as Keb ‘Mo’, Shakey Graves, Big Thief and others. But in many cases, their collaborations were first born of friendships. They did a lot of that by following each other to Austin, Boston and New York. So far.
For six of his ten years in the Big Apple, David shared a home with Lake Street Dive bassist Bridget Kearney. It was there that they also realized that they should stop “circling around each other” and come together as a musical unit. After releasing their debut EP in 2017, they signed with Compass. Their 2018 debut album, Some People I Know, and 2021 follow-up, Calla Lily, received high praise.
Cover to Cover’s thoughtful selections and beautiful arrangements will undoubtedly earn them more, along with comparisons to their contemporaries the Milk Carton Kids and Secret Sisters (the twins like to mention David Rawlings and Gillian Welch as benchmarks). Surprisingly, they had no trouble deciding which songs made the final cut. According to David, “These are other people’s songs, but we really needed to make them our own. We didn’t want to sing someone’s song that we didn’t completely identify with and sound like. end, we just picked the ones we liked doing the most.”
Some of that decision-making happened long-distance, after the two chose to escape NYC rents during COVID. David and his fiancée bought an RV and traveled until he was offered a job at Miami City Ballet School. Adam’s new girlfriend, who had just moved to town and didn’t know many people, suggested hanging out temporarily at her mom’s house in Santa Barbara, California. But they liked the atmosphere so much that they stayed. As for how they got to “Memphis” – and the rest of those songs, they’ve come down some interesting roads.
Adam dove deep into Tom T. Hall after hearing some of Americana’s most revered singer-songwriters praise him during a song performance. He wasn’t moved at all, but years later David found out. Then Adam started hearing it everywhere and got hooked. “It’s so well written and so meaningful,” David says. “It’s everything a country song should be.” Their slightly more upbeat version has a soulful, bluesy groove.
Regarding “These Days,” on which they blend crystal-clear harmonies and beautiful guitar interludes, Adam says, “That song might be why we came together as a duo. Jackson Brown could have written that song with such a wise feeling at such a young age.”
After a friend turned them on with the late songwriter Judee Sill, the pair became obsessed. Although they found “There’s a Rough Road” a challenge, they wanted to acknowledge “one of the ’70s singer-songwriter’s unsung heroes.” They don’t know how they came across “I Get Along Without You”, but say Chet Baker’s version “is a dream, perhaps one of the most perfect performances by any musician”. They were delighted to arrange an acappella version with the Price Sisters. “Blue Virginia Blues”, one of Adam’s favorite bluegrass songs, is apparently also favored by Chris Eldridge of the Punch Brothers, who called it during the bluegrass jams they were playing in New York. “He has the best taste in bluegrass music of anyone I’ve ever heard,” Adam gushed.
They weren’t sure they could do justice to major influence Waits with “Flower’s Grave,” but once they crafted their exquisite violin and cello arrangement, they knew they had nailed it. “It’s not the radio hit from the album,” Adam notes. “But I think it’s our smartest arrangement for sure.” On an album full of so many things, that might be debatable. Thankfully, listeners won’t have to choose, as all 12 are sparkling gems.