ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, OCT. 26, 1995
When I first heard Brother Cane’s self-titled debut CD three years ago, I was mightily impressed by the Alabama quartet’s bluesy, southern-tinged guitar-rock, spurred on as it was by the multiple talents of Damon Johnson, lead guitarist, lead vocalist, and main songwriter.
But aside from the odd bit of airplay for the single “Hard Act to Follow”, there wasn’t much of a buzz happening on the group, as far as I could tell. I’d pretty well written Brother Cane off as a strong new act that—like a thousand others—got overlooked in the industry’s mad rush to discover the next Nirvana.
But then, earlier this year, my faith in the recording biz was bolstered somewhat when I learned the band was coming to town, warming up for Slash’s Snakepit on a much-ballyhooed club tour. Brother Cane hadn’t slipped into obscurity after all; a fine rockin’ outfit from the South had lived to see another day. And when BC blew Slash and his handpicked band right off the Commodore stage with tunes from its then-upcoming sophomore disc, Seeds, I knew the band had what it takes to tangle with the best.
Evidently, I wasn’t the only Vancouverite blown away by Brother Cane’s Slash-smashing, because now the band is selling out shows of its own: case in point, the Town Pump last Friday (October 20). When its casually clad members surfaced from the Pump’s dingy basement just after midnight, large pockets of the anxious crowd did the sardine shuffle towards the stage and were greeted by a heavy slice of Zeppelin-style raunch tinged with a honky-tonkin’ Skynyrd vibe.
A tune or two later, bassist Roman Glick leaned into a harmonica to usher in the first of several boogie tunes, “Got No Shame”, and when Johnson stood on the wah-wah pedal, it was ’70s-rock heaven—an air-guitar sound bite from Dazed and Confused. While older tunes like “Shame” convey a down-home, southern-rock spirit, vigorous new standouts like “Hung on a Rope” have been armoured with a strapping, big-city feel. The fact that the group can also manage subtler melodic-pop gems such as “Fools Shine On” bodes well for its becoming a radio staple along the lines of the similar-sounding Collective Soul.
The highlight of Friday’s show came during the barn-burning “Kerosene”, when Brother Cane segued into the Police’s “Synchronicity” for several bars and then ploughed right back into its own tune with a streamlined grace that matched the fearsome dynamics of Sting and company in their heyday.