Six albums in and where stand the beloved Losties? Brothers in spirit, if not in blood, Oisin Leech and Mark McCausland, in their playful nomenclature, trace a line back to the revered legacy of other country siblings such as the Brothers Louvin, Stanley and, not least, Evelry.
Leech and McCausland, from Meath and Tyrone respectively, have quietly built up a solid following over the past decade or more while shaping their take on American roots into something authentic, thoughtful and distinctive, unveiling notes of gossamer luminescence that shimmer in the moment. The beauty of their instinctive harmonies and sensitive songs reveal a duo with one voice. That is their signature sound.
But maintaining that quiet intensity, that understated energy, that lyrical sweep, over six collections is no easy matter without falling prey to cliché. So each new album must become a renewal of their mission guided by a new pair of ears.
Last time for 2018's Halfway Towards a Healing they enlisted the help of noted American renegade Howe Gelb and for this collection they turned to Bob Dylan's sometime bassist Tony Garnier and fellow producer Daniel Schlett. In addition, the sessions in New York also featured Mitch Ward, Jolie Holland, the aforementioned Mr Gelb and Irish whiz Steve Wickham.
The quality of the company they keep is a mark of how admired they and their music have become. Even their seasoned producer is moved to hyperbole: “this record is spectacular,” says Garnier.
That adjective does not sit well. After the Fire After the Rain is not spectacular in fireworks terms, but it is deeply reflective, soulful, and rich with nuance and muted colour.
“More than any other album, these songs are inspired by our native land and all the beauty of the island with its rain, its dreams and storms,” says Leech. So the Boyne gets a mention on the opening Fugitive Moon, while the closing Glens of Gortin (near Omagh) is the title of one of three evocative instrumentals among the 11 tracks (the other two are equally Irish in spirit: Ash Wednesday and Six-Mile Cross).
That sense of the local permeates most if not all the lyrics, but the music remains lovingly embedded in the gentler side of Americana. Garnier and Schlett centre each track on the Brothers’ voices and acoustic guitars and Garnier’s own double-bass and then sensitively colour the music with layers of sound, harmonies, harmonica, electric guitar, keyboard effects, muted brass.
The album title combines the titles of two songs, each notable in their own right. However, this is not about standout moments but rather the deeply satisfying whole. Headphones on, the world can wait.