(Cynical Twins, “Deep In Shallow Water” Elegant Trainwreck Records, Jackson, MS, 2017)
When the history of Indie/alternative rock in Jackson, Mississippi is written–which surely, and hopefully, it will be one day–the members of Cynical Twins will be emphasized as forefathers (and mother) of a music scene which never fully got the recognition or credit it so richly deserved.
The three musicians who comprise Cynical Twins in particular were especially prominent during the nascent stages of the Jackson “real” rock scene–real in the sense that cover songs weren’t necessarily the rule of the night in the early 80s for these new bands copping attitudes and pushing originality; any covers played were culled from the punk/New Wave genre just gaining traction for a nightclub audience perhaps more accustomed to or wanting Lynyrd Skynyrd or Aerosmith staples instead of XTC or The Buzzcocks. Local bands such as The Germans, The Windbreakers, Radio London, Used Goods and others, bravely led the musical change of guard in a state capitol not known for accepting any form of change readily.
It is a wonderful thing indeed, then, to see Cynical Twins–Jeff Lewis, Sherry Cothren and Joe Partridge, Jr–triplets actually, and members of those aforementioned path-breaking bands–come together, older, wiser and, dare I say, playing better than ever, to recently release their debut CD, “Deep In Shallow Water” on the local Elegant Trainweck label.
Recorded in Jackson (where else could it have been done?) and skillfully produced by Kevin Cornell, “Deep In Shallow Water” is a work by older artists who, for whatever perverse and unfair twist of fate, didn’t carry their success out of the Jackson bars such as W.C. Don’s, Skidmarks and The Lamar where they once ruled as young trailblazers. Older, yes–but no less idealistic. And certainly no less edgier.
“Deep In Shallow Water” could have very easily been a work of bitterness, regret or a look back in anger; it is, instead, a more mature, nuanced and reigned-in powerhouse work of musicians who, while perhaps never hitting the proverbial “big time” remain as focused, driven and idealistic as their younger selves. Actually, more so: They don’t want your pity–they want you to rock. And to think while you’re doing it.
As a witness to those halcyon days of the early 80’s bar scene, I can tell you that Lewis, Cothren and Partridge were damned good musicians back then. I’m proud to report that now, as a listener who has changed and been through my own life‘s travails, that “Deep In Shallow Better” speaks to me–and is even better than the music these three musicians created way back when.
And that’s saying something.
The examples on this disc are countless: the beautiful and haunting blending of Lewis’ and guest Bronwynne Brent’s voices on the appropriately-titled “Bitter Places”; the charging out of the gate of “Stand With The Rest Of Us”; the melody and (to me, unexpected) wonderful harmonies of “Her Last Dollar”; the Police-esque closing track, “Girl In A Shell”–these songs have especially stuck in my head. But there’s not a bum note on the whole disc.
The real star of the CD has to be lead vocalist and guitarist Jeff Lewis. I’ve not heard his singing or playing as inspired as it is on “Deep In Shallow Water.” It’s as if the rocker that was–older now, and maybe, like the rest of us, stunned and saddened by seeing our musical heroes departing on a much-too frequent and sad basis, decided to lay it all out there on the line, devil take the hindmost. This Lewis does. His solos are magnificent and his voice never sounded this good.
As always, Partridge has to be noted as one of the area’s better drummers and he does nothing to have that reputation challenged on the new disc. And while Cothren’s bass seems a bit low in the mix to these ears her songwriting fits the music like a glove.
I do have complaints, not criticisms: One wishes some of the songs would go on a bit longer–this is to the band’s credit, of course. And the disc as a whole is a tad short with only eight tracks. Additionally, this CD belongs on iTunes, CD Baby and Amazon–it deserves a wider audience. The world needs to know–and hear–what those of us who have followed these three for years already knew a long time ago: they’re good. Damned good. And “Deep In Shallow Water” might be just be the crowning achievement of their collective careers.
I believe it is.
Forget the “Support Local Music” plea we‘re always hearing. Hell, just support good music, period, and buy this CD today–and tell your friends about it.
Great job Cynical Twins. Great job Jeff, Sherry and Joe. It’s nice enough to say that I knew you when. With the release of “Deep In Shallow Water” it’s even nicer to say that I still know–and can listen to you–today.