The second album from the Kelele Brothers, Has-Beens & Wives, continues the system followed on their debut, Escape from Bover County, where the group divided the content between covers and originals. The name of the game here is still fun, but where Escape was a candid snapshot of the band playing live in hotel rooms while on tour, Has-Beens & Wives was recorded at cellist/drummer Don Kerr's studio, the Gas Station Island in Ontario. While the immediacy of the recordings that made the first recording so enjoyable is no longer present, the Kelele Brothers have assembled a work of intense affection that makes Has-Beens & Wives no less enjoyable. This time around, there are four originals: two donated by lap steel guitarist Tim Bovaconti and one apiece from Ron Sexsmith and Maury LaFoy. Bovaconti's first track, "Bover Nova," is a three-minute instrumental to kick-start the album with a descending shuffle, a lovely melody shared by violin and organ, and Bovaconti's superb lap steel guitar. It shares a similar cinematic quality as LaFoy's mesmerizing "Ukulele Rain," which stops time with its simple beauty. Sexsmith's composition, "Boredom and Loneliness," is centered around classic, introspective Sexsmith lyrics set to a bouncing piano and handclaps, but is led by Kerr, not Sexsmith. The six remaining tracks are made up of some fascinating and exciting cover choices, from Serge Gainsbourg's "Chick Habit" to the obscure Randy Newman tune "I Don't Want to Hear It Anymore," but also tracks originally by the Kinks, Jethro Tull, and the Who as well as the delightful oddity "The City's Hospital Patients," a product of semi-legendary song poem artist Rodd Keith. A look at the track list assures that influences from the Kelele Brothers' own diverse album collections will be heard, and listening to Has-Beens & Wives implies that the group spent a great deal of time honing the arrangements, which makes it a fun listen by a project that should continue to treat listeners in the know for some time to come. Fans of Ron Sexsmith are highly encouraged to seek out both Has-Beens & Wives and its predecessor, Escape from Bover County.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Gregory McIntosh