SONS OF THE NEVER WRONG
King Fisher King
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I admire Sons of the Never Wrong in much the same way that I’ve been a fan of Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion. Cynics don’t get the Midwestern ecumenical Christian wholesomeness of either Keillor or the Sons, but sometimes I’ve just had it with all the pessimism and want something that lifts the spirit. The latest from SOTNW opens as most of their recordings do–with a catchy little homespun ditty that spotlights Bruce Roper’s dry, reedy voice (which is vaguely reminiscent of Steve Goodman’s). In this case, we get the down-home virtues of “Arkansas,” and its musical pastiche of Americana, folk, and faintly Irish instrumentation. What stands out most, though, are the incredibly tight three-part harmonies between Roper, Sue Demel, and Deborah Lader. It’s an infectious song that exudes giddiness.
Don’t be fooled by the trio’s optimism–it’s not blind faith. The album’s major theme is the fragility of life and is embodied on track eleven, “Compromise,” which addresses the choices we make to uplift, or tear down; to come home, or be lonely on the road. As they remind later on, “... all our best intentions are lost in a net by the Galilee Sea.” The album’s tone is often joyful, but it’s also cautionary: if you want meaning, you have to take the time to see the small things that really matter. “Over There” could be viewed as a slice of folky Utopia with Biblical undertones, or a litany of the things that divide and conquer. It’s all a matter of the choices we make.
The Sons of Never Wrong are hard to classify musically. They are certainly on the folk end of the spectrum, but material such as “Sword and Pen” and “Face on Mars” have a theatrical feel that evokes light musical theater. They also have a penchant for writing off-kilter songs. “The Great Unknown” takes the well-worked theme of contemplating what’s on the other side of death, but how many songs tell this by populating the lyrics with Caesar, Lincoln, and John Lennon? Or how about a song about the importance of remembering that’s actually about forgetting (“Window”)? Or some white people’s soul in which a terrifying “Tornado” becomes a father’s gentle lesson about life cycles. I understand when people tell me that Sons of the Never Wrong are just too weird (or too sunny) for them, but I get them and I’m grateful for the gentle guidance they offer. Check out the new album's songs for yourself at http://www.sons.com/