The Belle Brigade
The Belle Brigade
By Al Kaufman
Brother/sister act Ethan and Barbara Gruska call legendary film composer John Williams (Jaws, E.T., Superman, Star Wars,Indiana Jones, to name a few) grandpa. With such a musical pedigree, it is expected that the duo should accomplish some beautiful things. More often than not, they do.
The Gruska siblings display some gorgeous vocal harmonies that can only be achieved by two people who have known themselves their whole lives. Their interplay feels instinctive and natural. They must be the types of people who finish each other sentences and eat off of each other’s plates.
So it would only make sense that many of the songs on their self-titled debut closely resemble the sound of Fleetwood Mac, in their own way a very close, albeit very dysfunctional, family. The Gruska’s harmonies sway like those of Christine McVie and Lindsey Buckingham at their best. From the simple and sweet “Sweet Louise,” to the poppier “Where Not to Look for Freedom,” to “Lucky Guy” (in which Ethan shows off some streetsmart Paul Simon swagger), it is apparent that the Gruskas wore out the grooves on their copy of Rumors.
A particular gem is “Shirt.” Starting off with gentle guitar picking and vocal trading, it conveys a tired man who has been hung out to dry. Then the organ, cello, and electric guitars kick in, the pace picks up to an almost arena rock level and Ethan exclaims, “No one’s gonna wear me out.” They try the same trick with “Losers,” but to a lesser effect. When the rock kicks in, it sounds a bit too over-produced and forced, thanks to producer, and ’80s pop star, Matthew Wilder, who also turned the knobs for No Doubt.
The CD fizzles at the end under the weight of too much assembly line country-tinged pop, but not before the Belle Brigade prove that they have the talent to live up to their heritage.