Let's get one thing straight: This ain't a fairy tale.
Brothers Grim--four Raleigh boys who like cigarettes, rock 'n' roll music and brown-bottle beer--are after none of that. They write straight from number one, unloading real-life, real-grit narratives scratched out here and now by fellas that have had jaws busted, faces bruised and hearts broken. If that sounds like a formula for a country-western tear-pool, then it's dead on.
"God takes lovers away from each other/ Puts them in a box under lock and key," Adam Lane sings with a thin-lipped anxiety and a barstool disgust in "Don't Wait for Me," a sort of Steve Earle love-hurts song narrated by a vicarious Vietnam tragedy.
But this isn't country-western music. Instead, Brothers Grim rides the border of alt.country, delivering sincere, rural-rendered sud songs behind a two-guitar caterwaul, led by Kris Walz's Skynyrd-taught blistering pentatonic leads and distorted punk rhythms popularized by Uncle Tupelo. Shimer Gradus even takes a drum solo as "You're Killin' Me" slams to a Jason & The Scorchers' halt. Showing wide rock roots, Lane offers a glimpse of "Subterranean Homesick Blues" Dylan on "Escape," a social gripe leveled at false prophets and maligned media: "Animation, dis-nation, blind leaders who can't hear what they say/ Oversights, overseers, overachieving every goal/ And here we go."
Like their kindred spirits in The Drive-By Truckers, Brothers Grim both understands and harnesses the spirit of its native South, especially in the Patterson Hood-dream "Tonight," a revivalist anthem that understands the secret of the Muscle Shoals country-rock recipe was always its defiant soul. And, in large part, they nail it.