Montibello Memories

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Formed in 2009, North Carolina's Matrimony are a family band through and through. Fronted by husband-and-wife combo Jimmy and Ashlee Hardee Brown and backed by Ashlee's two brothers C.J. and Jordan Hardee, they take their cues from folk music's past as filtered through the contemporary sounds of the indie nu folk movement. After releasing an EP as a duo back in 2010, Jimmy and Ashlee made the move toward a more expansive, indie pop sound, enlisting the other two Hardees to complete the lineup that appears here on the band's debut LP, Montibello Memories. With most of the crew having grown up in Charlotte, North Carolina, Jimmy Brown is the resident newcomer and outside voice, having married into the Hardee family after immigrating from Belfast, Ireland. Yet, within the group's sound there is neither a distinct Southern presence, nor an Irish one. Accordion, banjo, dulcimer, and mandolin are employed throughout the 11 tracks that suggest some Americana flavor, but generally skew more toward a kind of neutral, acoustic indie pop aesthetic. For all of the band's focus on family and the hearth and home (the album's title refers to the Hardees' family home on Montibello Drive), their debut comes across as rather conventional on tracks like "Obey Your Guns," "Giant," and "Different Kind of Loving." The music is played well enough and their harmonies work, but there is a lack of distinction to the album that would help to set Matrimony apart from the myriad other acts working in this style. But their story is a good one and the songs are ultimately more compelling when the bandmembers let their personalities show, like on "Last Love," a wistful country-pop ballad in which Ashlee sings about her marriage, or on "See the Light," which has warm strains of earthy Appalachian and gospel. Overall, Montibello Memories seems to have missed its mark with its homespun, folksy promise having been hammered a little too hard into bland trendiness.

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