Music You Should Know Review


Since 2013, under the name Tough Old Bird, brothers Matthew and Nathan Corrigan have been captivating listeners with their storytelling qualities. This has been accompanied by a stunning soundtrack which they describe as “modern folk music that reflects the landscape it comes from, a place where the last train just pulled out and the carnival is always on its way to the next town”. These talents have been showcased with their releases Never to Return (2014), The Barn Sessions (2015), Gambling Days (2016), Where the Beasts are Buried (2017). 

Now the brothers have returned with their brand new album The Old Great Lakes. They say “The album is made up of songs written over the past several years that thematically fit together. It started out as songs such as A Little More Time or The Old Great Lakes (which were both demoed for Gambling Days) that didn’t fit on previous albums. Soon a thematic through-line started to form within those songs that were set aside. Much of the album is centred around city life, the rust belt, and the Great Lakes. As opposed to the more rural, country-oriented settings of our previous two releases. The record was very much made to serve as a complete album, and not a collection of independent, disparate songs”.

Tough Old Bird never fail to impress with their storytelling qualities

The Old Great Lakes still features the captivating combination of Matthew’s sublime intricate guitar style that marries up with the storytelling quality by Nathan. Together, their talents interweave to create nothing but beautiful moments with their music. This combination is clear to hear from the opening track “Second Street Waltz, Pt 1”.

With this release, they have recruited the talents of musicians Sean Ebert (trumpet), Jay Corwin (electric and upright bass), Marty Benzinger (drums and percussion), and Charlie Caughlin (fiddle).  They have come in to help create a more compelling soundtrack as “Seven Lights” and “Harbor Song” can testify.

While listening to this Americana filled soundtrack, it is hard not to hear the influences at work. These include Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Tom Wait, to name a few. This duo has learned a lot from them, including the power of a good story within their lyrics. This quality has been a core of what makes their music stand. This has been prominent since their debut release. These tales are brought to life by the wonderful vocal presence by Nathan.

Their lyrical talents shine brightly throughout “Christmas Eve”. As it begins, Matthew’s gentle acoustic guitar style sets the mood. Then their way with words begins with “Annie you lost your keys / And you’re lost on me / So I will drive you home tonight”. As the song progresses, Nathan’s gentle tone glides along to share moments which his words paint so many pictures.  

The title track also shows off this ability and more as their songwriting blends together to create this special moment. When the vocals come in, they have a natural and grounded tone that makes the listener pay attention. It makes them absorb this wonderful piece of audio art. 

There are so many great tales to be heard throughout The Old Great Lakes. One that continues to stand out with each listen is “A Little More Time”. As it begins, it features a radio station which sets the scene about an upcoming snow storm. This is followed up with the opening lines “So I finally bid you farewell / And did my best impression / Of somebody who had never cared”. As the story goes on, they paint so many scenes with their words and the various layers of musical instruments. 

It is difficult not to become lost within this compelling tale. The depth of the lyrics are impressive and none more than when the song comes to a close. The way Nathan delivers the lines “I know, I know that I should find / Find a way to clear my mind but I / Oh how I wish that I / Could have just a little more time” is mesmerising. 

The Old Great Lakes is yet another great showing of the songwriting talents of Tough Old Bird. The depth within their music and lyrics is impressive as always. If you are looking for an album with captivating stories, then this album is for you.

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