The Pinkerton Raid is a sibling rivalry with musical byproducts both as different and as familiar as the brothers and sister who created them. From folk-pop charm to pensive, baritone-led rock, the band’s latest album, A Beautiful World, might conjure comparisons as disparate as Ingrid Michaelson and The National.
In truth, songwriter Jesse James DeConto’s influences run older, back to The Beatles and Fleetwood Mac songs he heard from his dad’s guitar or his mom’s favorite soft-rock radio station. Later, he discovered U2, adding the Edge’s penchant for chiming guitar tones but reinforcing what he’d already learned from albums like Rubber Soul or Rumours – melodicism from bass to vocals and everything in between; the beauty of vocal harmonies; the joy of juxtaposing thoughtful storytelling with music that makes you want to move.
“[Jesse’s] dealing with some pretty complex and heavy subject matter,” says Juliet Fromholt of WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, “But can also make a solid pop song.”
Born 14 years later, Jesse’s kid brother Steven didn’t grow up with him, not really. Jesse was off into the world by the time his youngest bro was even four years old. Katie, the middle of five siblings, didn’t get to know her big brother that much more.
As grown-ups, though, the DeConto kids have forged fierce friendships as neighbors in Durham, NC, a seedbed of New Southern culture. Here the siblings draw on musical influences that literally span generations to create music that is hard to categorize. Jesse’s 1970s Brit-pop songwriting and indie-rock ambience tangle with Katie’s playful, jazzy melodies and the rhythms Steven draws from his hip-hop playlist and the epic folk of bands like The Head & the Heart or Of Monsters & Men. Steven can’t decide if he prefers the drums, a Les Paul or his acoustic Taylor. He’ll throw the ukulele to Katie behind the keyboard and see what happens. Jesse might put down his viola bass or open-back banjo to tinker with guitar pedals or tap on a glockenspiel. The Pinkerton Raid is the controlled chaos of a big family, set to music. It’s A Beautiful World.
On this, the band’s sophomore release, the sibling trio collaborated with friends Eric Johnson (Telecaster) and Tim (drums) and Laura Wooten (keyboards, background vocals), members of the six-piece live band that coalesced after the release of their self-titled album in 2012. Producer Edd Kerr honed the Beautiful World sound with layers of guitars and keyboards for a musical experience by turns soothing and cathartic. This album was a collaborative effort born out of family and friendship.
From beginning to end, A Beautiful World tells a story of young love – the shy flirtation, the wonder, the questions, young marriage, second-guessing, a baby girl, a miscarriage, the extended family dramas that complicate all of it. It ends in hope – hope that things will get better, hope that what is broken can be healed, hope that what is worn-out can find rest, hope for a beautiful world.
All songs copyright Jesse James DeConto, 2014 (ASCAP Clarendon Street Press) with "Just a Boy" lyrics by H. Pfau
Recorded by Edd Kerr at Edd Kerr Productions, Durham, NC
Mixed by Greg Abate at Neon Audio, Durham, NC
Mastered by Adam Gonsalves at Telegraph Audio, Portland, OR