The Cardinal Sons
The Echo Choir
Though it may seem premature to start thinking about summer, but with 70-degree weather and clear skies across New Orleans most of December, it doesn’t feel too far off. The same could be said of the music of The Cardinal Sons, as I listen to their sunny second EP The Echo Choir in the dead of “winter.”
“I rest my bones on faded sheets, got a racing heart and I can’t sleep,” sings vocalist John Shirley on the aptly titled lead track “Day of Summer.” The song is pure, unadulterated pop, so warm you may want to slather on the suntan lotion on first listen. Formulaic, for sure, and yet the formula works, in part because of the effortless musicianship between Shirley, synth/keys/bassist Joe Shirley, and drummer Dave Shirley.
Yes, you read that right. This is band of Shirleys – three brothers hailing from Jackson, MI, who now call New Orleans home (though why they didn’t go ahead and call themselves “The Shirleys” is anyone’s guess).
Every song on the EP is jam-packed with piano, synth, guitars, bass, and drums, and yet doesn’t sound cluttered, a testament to both the deft interplay between the brothers and the lean production of Charlie Sexton. Despite the occasional synth effects, this sounds like it comes form a band, not a producer creating tracks on a computer for a group to play over, like so much of modern pop music.
And speaking of not overproducing, the brother’s vocals sound nicely unprocessed and un-auto-tuned throughout, bringing out the richness of their three-part harmonies without sacrificing their “humanity.”
“Blood,” my favorite track on the album, is also the mellowest. John exercises his lovely falsetto as Joe lays down everything from Rhodes-style keyboard licks in the verses to a warbling organ for the dynamic choruses.
As all three sing “All my blood could run across the whole country,” I couldn’t help but think of this band of brothers touring the country, essentially doing just that.