Carroll brothers' tunes get tastier each time out

Spending Sunday Morning with the Sons of Maxwell

SONS OF MAXWELL'S Dave and Don Carroll know their strength lies in slice of life storytelling; they even pose on the cover of their latest Sunday Morning (independent) at a formica breakfast table with a retro-look toaster, a slab of bread sticking out.

As with every Sons outing, the slices get a little thicker and a little tastier each time out, as songwriter Dave - with occasional help from the likes of brother Don and Canadian country pro Patricia Conroy - peeks at the hearts behind the front doors on every street, mirroring the ups and downs he finds there in his lyrics.

The album's structured like a work week, starting on a Monday morning with Uphill Battle and the struggle to eke out a mundane existence while dreams lay gathering dust in the corner.

It's chiming folk-rock sound is anything but dour though, as Carroll's protagonist tries to figure out how to jump the groove he's trapped in. The record progresses through love on the afro-beat of Like You Do, the daydreams of Live in the Movies, the daily emotional runaround of Games People Play and the drug-fueled Saturday night abandon of Mr. Nobody.

Finally we arrive at the title track and its reflection of the fact that no matter how screwed up your life is, the Sunday morning paper is full of a week's worth of craziness that makes your own existence look like Leave It to Beaver.

Sons of Maxwell have a way of reassuring listeners that they're just like them, and that all of these experiences ring truer because of their "we've all been there" approach. Carroll's imagery has enough detail and humour to make it personal, but without losing sight of the universality of his situations.

Staring at a just-closed door on Whole Lot Lighter or the heart-mind tug o' war of Give Me a Reason stick in your mind not because they're unique, but because they flick on a familiar switch in every brain that comes across them.

It's a tactic most commonly found in country music, but Sons of Maxwell aren't so easily painted into a musical corner, getting gritty with Tom Petty-ish rock on Live in the Movies or evoking Springsteen with a ringing 12-string and a tale of small-town boys on that metaphysical road in The Best Things. The change-ups keep things fresh, while Don's and Dave's harmonies remain one of the East Coast's most distinctive sounds.

By STEPHEN COOKE / At the Movies

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