Originally created 01/30/98

Brothers have original sound



The Thompson Brothers are like nothing you've heard before, and yet they're also exactly what you've heard before.

That's because Boston-area-reared brothers Andy and Matt Thompson and their former school chum Mike Whitty create original country-rock sounds while borrowing vocal and instrumental touches from classic acts like the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, the Lovin Spoonful and the Beatles.

Andy, 26, plays lead guitar; Matt, 24, plays drums; and Mike, also 24, plays bass.

You've already heard them on country radio and just don't know it. They sing the new "classic kind of day" Coca-Cola jingle. You also may have stumbled upon their World Wide Web site (www.thompsonbrothers.com).

heir first RCA album, Cows On Main Street, went unnoticed in 1996. public acceptance. Two of the six tracks on that album, Bang, Bang (She Shot Me Down) and a remake of Neil Diamond's Solitary Man, were recorded live at the Country Rock Cafe in Athens, Ga.

The brothers return to the Country Rock Cafe, 1720 Commerce Highway, for shows at 10 p.m. on Friday, March 6, and Saturday, March 7. Call (706) 369-7625.

"Cows On Main Street was a rougher version of the band before I got with them," says their manager, Jay Barron, a musician and veteran of Becky Hobbs' band. "It was mainly used as a promotional tool."

Their second album, Blame It on the Dog, was released Tuesday, with the first single off that album, Drive Me Crazy, also receiving little airplay or notice.

o, why do I think these guys may succeed in today's competitive country market?

Their new album was co-produced by the Thompson Brothers and Bill Lloyd, formerly half of the hit country duo Foster & Lloyd, and there is a world of difference between their first album and their second.

The second is more polished and includes some great guest artists, including guitarist Steve Earle (Guitar Town), bluegrass mandolin master Sam Bush, legendary rock organist Al Kooper (that's he playing organ on Bob Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone) and guitarist/producer Mr. Lloyd.

Songs on the new album are stronger, including the haunting ballad A Million Miles Away (co-written by Roy Orbison's bass player Michael Joyce with its opening sounding like it's from the TV series Twin Peaks); the great Andy Thompson-penned rocker Don't Mind If I Do and the improved, recut studio version of Bang, Bang (She Shot Me Down).

on't confuse the latter with a similarly titled 1960s hit by Cher and the late Sonny Bono.

"I didn't even know about the Sonny & Cher song, Bang, Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) when Mike and I wrote it," said Andy Thompson in a telephone interview. "Somebody told us, `You know Sonny and Cher had a song something like that. I actually had to go look it up. Music wise, it's not even close to ours, but I was surprised how close some of the words were."

The brothers will soon fly to Los Angeles to film the music video for their next single, Back on the Farm (due out in February). The video producer is David Hogan, who has produced music videos for award-winning rockers Sheryl Crow and Melissa Etheridge.

"The imagery in the song is amazing," said Mr. Thompson. "It should make for a good video. The RCA promotion staff knows we're a little different than your normal country act."

i>Back On The Farm is a Don Henry song about a guy who arrogantly leaves his parents' farm and small hometown bound for something big ("When I left the hometown, I flipped the birdie at the drugstore clowns."), only to return in failure.

When you listen to the brothers, you will hear some excellent songwriting by the trio (they wrote or co-wrote seven of the album's 11 songs), some talented musicianship and some tight harmonies.

The brothers started playing together when Andy was 13 and Matt was 11.

"Mom does the church singing thing," Andy said. "Dad was the cool influence. He had a large vinyl and 8-track collection of Waylon (Jennings), Willie (Nelson), Kris (Kristofferson), early John Anderson, almost all the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Duane Eddy, the Everly Brothers, the Ventures and many more."

Andy and Matt met Mike when playing together in the junior high band. Mike and Matt also had a lot of classes together.

About 1986, the trio came together for a junior talent show. They didn't win.

"We lost to an Irish female step dancer," Andy said with a laugh. "Bridget something or other."

All three ran track in high school, and all three got track scholarships to Belmont University in Nashville. Andy, who won the Massachusetts high school mile championship in 1990, still runs about 25 to 30 miles a week. Matt and Mike run about three miles a day.

A big break came when a friend was setting up the sound board for an artist showcase in Nashville and popped in a demo tape of the band as a sound level check. Greg McCarn, RCA's associate director of artist development, asked the engineer what label the band was on, so he could get a copy.

When he was told the band wasn't on a label, he passed the demo to RCA's Sam Ramage, who set up a showcase that led to the RCA contract.

A song that Andy and Tim Johnson co-wrote on the Blame It on the Dog album, Life's Too Short, says in part: "There's a great big world I've got to see. And I ain't going to watch it on the cable TV." It says a lot about the group's wanderlust life.

"We were lucky in that we got to hang out with lot of Boston-area musicians a lot older than us, who were in their 40s, and who said all the time, `Man, you're young. Go and try for it in Nashville,"' said Andy.

" Our whole goal is to enjoy what we're doing," Andy added. "We don't want to keep doing it if it isn't fun."

Sound bite
To hear part of Don't Mind If I Do off the Thompson Brothers' release Blame It on the Dog, call INFOLINE at 442-4444 and press 8100.