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He’s my Brother She’s my Sister – Nobody Dances in this Town album review

It’s appropriate that much of the hullabaloo surrounding L.A. outfit He’s my Brother She’s my Sister (HMBSMS) stems from SXSW and ACL appearances. Their busker-styled, retro-freak folk, garage rock, alt-country, Americana, Doo-wop, Rockabilly, psychedelic genre meld is right at home in the motley musical stew that permeates ATX. What’s doubly appropriate is that the 5-piece’s album title is a reaction to their hometown music scene – “Nobody Dances in this Town.” That may be true in LA, but it does not seem to be the case wherever HMBSMS plays.

The band’s lineup is as eclectic as their sound. As the name denotes, its founding members are brother and sister team: Rob Kolar, an award winning singer, songwriter, actor and guitarist; and Rachel Kolar, percussionist/singer and theatre company manager. They are backed by drummer/tap dancer Lauren Brown. Oliver Newton slaps a stand-up bass, as well as composes and does performance art. Finally, the guitarist, Aaron Robinson, is no slouch…having toured with Akron Family and Sea Wolf. Despite that whirlwind of talents and influences they make oddly focused songs that hit you in the head as much as move your feet.

Take “Let’s Go,” a song that hurdles along with the momentum of a Big Brother and the Holding Company track. Rachel Kolar’s vocals are smooth as Norah Jones at her most country or Loretta Lynn at her most rock. Meanwhile, the lyrics are hippy inspired: “It’s a journey it’s your trip/Your face is blurred now come on home/A single word upon my lips, my soul is stirred you’re not alone.” But, despite that confluence of ingredients HSBSMS pulls it off with uniform aplomb.

In another vein, “Tales that I tell” is a bar sing-along track where you find yourself repeating, “My luck is shot to shit, but I still got my wit/So I quit the drinking, my heart’s opened a bit/Tales that I tell(R3)/ Fare thee well.”

The album closer, “Can’t See the Lights,” has sultry blues notes along with a group shout along chorus that begs to be heard live. The song’s overall feeling is in the sweet spot between melancholic and sardonic. By the time you reach the end of 38-minute album it seems your ears have been everywhere from Nashville to Seattle.
I have used enough descriptors and references to label more than a dozen bands in this article. I still don’t have their sound pinned down. Even the group’s founder, Rob Kolar, has trouble…he lists off such mash ups as glam-abilly, vaudeville blues, flamboyant folk. In the end, none are quite right. What is true of HMBSMS’s first LP is this: it may not be the best album you hear all season, but it very well may be the most fun.

By Travis Scott

Travis Scott lives in Chicago where he writes about music and dances about architecture.

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