Since forming in 2011, Cereus Bright has expanded from a duo to a five-piece outfit and has released two beautiful EPs.
So, it’s about damn time that the Knoxville natives come out with a debut album.
As a quintet, the band redefined who Cereus Bright is and what Cereus Bright can be. Secluded in a cabin outside of Knoxville, the band was allowed to immerse itself in the 11 songs that would become Excuses.
Excuses is a mellow and mature record, one that demonstrates the band’s earnestness and acumen.
Yet, perhaps it was unintentionally a wise choice to hold off stitching together Excuses. These years spent touring and performing some of these songs in venues across the U.S., have given singer Tyler Anthony and guitarist and mandolin player Evan Ford the precious opportunity to grow with and into their music.
Finding likeminded souls in traditional jazz performers—drummer Luke Bowers, bassist Matt Nelson, and guitarist Jake Smith—Cereus Bright was able to expand its sound and cozy into the modern folk character with its new additions.
Case in point: Cereus Bright can easily slide into the smoother “Wasted Time,” which has light tones of jazz showcased in the lilting electric guitar lines while Anthony’s meandering, gentle voice floats delicately over the acoustic guitar and drums of the track.
In the same bluesy vein, “Hidenburg” is a gustier piece that is dominated by a striking guitar solo but is buoyed by Anthony’s feathery reach to falsetto. Similarly, “American Dream” is a stormy, swaggering track that harkens back to the origins of folk as an agent of change, complete with off-the-cuff ramshackle playing, palpable with soul.
The canvas of Excuses is in itself a reflection of the years dedicated to building Cereus Bright. The record simultaneously eschews and celebrates the joys they have found as a band while also exploring the lower registers of self-doubt and loss of faith.
The aspirations of Excuses would not be realized without the concluding track that borrows its name from the band. First appearing on their debut EP and now serving as a reminder of their roots, this serene song shines in the face of the themes concerning loneliness and listlessness permeating the album in songs like “Claustrophobic” and “River Run.” Inspired by the desert flower that only blooms in the dark of night at certain times of the year, “Cereus Bright” is an optimistic beacon that grows beautifully stronger and stronger as it concludes the gorgeous record.