“That’s one of the great things about The Band of Brothers…it’s more of a ‘sound’ than anything else.”
That “sound”, an unmistakably Celtic flavored layering of guitars and keyboards with often unconventional arrangements of fiddle, mandolin, accordion and percussion, serves as Brian Fitzpatrick’s most succinct explanation of his latest release, The Northern Lights E.P. What it modestly omits, however, is the strength of the songwriting that underpins all of Fitzpatrick’s work – and which provides its own cohesion and consistency. It also belies the many years of art and craft Fitzpatrick has applied to this sound’s development, represented by the steady musical progression in the pentad of full albums that preceded it. Also
significant are the masterful personnel at Jersey City’s Big Blue Meanie studios, which Fitzpatrick has long considered his recording home – and the sheer size of the family who have formed The Band of Brothers over the years, all members of which have proved “instrumental” to the sound’s achievement. The current “brotherhood” consists of Ed Fritz (keyboards, accordion and tin whistle), Fred Machetto (bass guitar), Scott Minafri (drums), Johnny Powers (percussion), Steve Jacobus (mandolin and fiddle), and Joe Brensinger (lead guitar). Gene Quintin, who played on Fitzpatrick’s 2008 release Worse for Wear, and was a
member of the band through 2011, also played mandolin and contributed to the arrangements on The Northern Lights E.P.
Like each of Fitzpatrick’s prior albums, the mere five songs which comprise this current effort take the listener on a
journey both familiar, yet still capable of surprise. On the EP’s opening track, “Always Be Your Man”, for example, the “sound” is jaunty, and the early lyrics prime us for a simple tale of love gone wrong. As the song progresses, however, we find ourselves stopping to consider the insights into human character provided by both characters. At first listen, the line “the one you found in you” seems perhaps an uncaught mistake. But, when considered beside phrases like “it all gets so strange when you’ve
become the thing you fear,” and the grudging admission of “another promise I can’t keep,” this clearly deliberate word choice rounds out the picture of a mature romantic partner who’s come to recognize her own worth – and is at last unwilling to
settle for a man unequal to it.
“Lay It All On Me”, contrasts this musical and intellectual jolt with the solid comfort of a good friend, brought to sonic life with an artistic integrity that matches the qualities of true friendship. Fitzpatrick has commented he wrote this song about a specific person who “was experiencing tremendous loss at the time,” only to later realize, “it was really about friendship in
general… To quote Mick [Jagger] and Keith [Richards], ‘We all need someone we can lean on…’”
A similar level of reflection characterizes the wistful “Fields of Green”, and the anthemic, “Above Your Nation”. Originally
intended for a briefly proposed side project called “Black Angus”, Fitzpatrick says of this song, “I’m still trying to figure out what it’s about, but I know it’s a love story.”
The Northern Lights E.P. as a whole might be labeled the same way. Leaving us ultimately to the “Great Unknown” until
whenever Fitzpatrick’s next musical chapter may be written, it both discomfits with questions about ourselves and those around us, yet wholly satisfies in the way only effectively written and performed music can.
The Northern Lights E.P. is being made available via physical release under a recent agreement between Fitzpatrick and Working Class Records, who will also be teaming with him for a new full-length release by the end of 2012. The E.P. is also
available digitally through Fitzpatrick’s longtime self-owned label, Mandala Music.