‘Beers, Banjos and Blackouts’, the opening track on The Breaks’ Rhythm and Roots, is as honky tonk as it gets; so it’s a bit of a surprise when you find out that this deep-South bluegrass trio is actually from Canada’s largest city – Toronto.
That’s right; The Breaks are not your typical hipster-laced indie rock band. They’re as unique as it gets, and while their music can be polarizing, no one will be able to deny their impressive musicianship.
‘It Happens All The Time’ is soft, sweet and simple, with just a plucky guitar and inviting vocals. But, on closer listen, the lyrics are wonderfully poetic: “In a world made of stone / And a land made of sand / With consciousness overgrown / And no one knows where they stand”.
The Breaks make great use of multiple acoustic guitars in ‘Lived On Down The Road’, making for a twinkly sound, paired with a tambourine for extra effect. The vocals on the track evoke the sense of an early Bob Dylan, while the lyrics run out like a story. But one of the best things about the song, and it extends throughout the album, is the band’s willingness to name drop overtly Canadian things: Tim Horton’s, the city’s blackout (whichever of several they might be referencing), Alberta and the 401 highway. Add the odd harmonica so that those odds-and-ends details make the track a unique piece.
‘Leaving Town Again, Feeling Rough’ is a different kind of drinking song with a strong melody backing it up. Maybe you could call it a hangover song – it’s confident and not too aggressive, fun but not too excitable
A harmonica solo opens ‘Getting Stoned and Playin’ Guitar’. The vocals are best on this song, drawn out and sure. A distant tambourine pulls the track along happily while a punchy acoustic guitar dances along and the harmonica draws up the rear. Lyrically, the track is an ode to everyone’s favourite lover, Mary Jane: “It’s not a bad thing, this thing we consume / You just think so, because someone told you / Meanwhile I’m gettin’ stoned and playin’ guitar”.
‘Not Until You Die’ rounds out the album, with hoarse vocals that are befitting of a harsh ballad. The track is suited to the Wild Wild West, with all the shootin’ an’ guns an’ dyin’ an’ stuff. And, of course, a harmonica fills out the Old South sound.
Overall, the album is polished – as expected for the group’s third release. I said the record would be polarizing, but there’s truly something on it for everyone. You might not be keen on country music, but you won’t be able to deny the foot-stomping fun you’ll undoubtedly have dancing around to Rhythm and Roots.
For more on The Breaks, visit www.themsthebreaks.com.