Sure, Page and Plant and Mick and Keith were made an impression, but the greatest influence for The Brothers Comatose is nature and nurture.
As a child, Ben Morrison watched his mother’s folk-singing quartet rehearse in the living room. As a teenager, the first music Ben bought was a Huey Lewis & The News cassette, “Sports.” As an adult, he sings in his own band and exchanges emails with Huey Lewis.
Acoustic guitarist Morrison and his banjoing brother, Alex, teamed up with mandolinist Ryan Avellone, double bassist Gio Benedetti and Philip Brezina, a classically trained violinist with redneck tendencies, to form The Brothers Comatose, a free-spirited bluegrass band based in the Bay Area.
It doesn’t take a therapist to analyze why this band is successful: When you hear the music, it makes you smile and dance.
Ben Morrison said he realized he could carry a pitch when he would drive around in the late 1990s singing to the radio.
“We learned it from mom and we developed it over the years,” he said. “Our mom was a singer and in a band when we were little kids and they would practice all the time. We used to sit there and they would sing beautiful harmonies. So I think from an early age like that, it was a big influence. You don’t know what’s happening … (but) getting to experience that as a little kid helped a lot.”
The Brothers Comatose have three full-length albums – “Songs from The Stoop” (2010), “Respect the Van” (2012) and “City Painted Gold” (2016). The boys also made three “whimsical” videos entitled “Elevator Sessions.” Most recently, the band went back to how the Morrison brothers started, by playing cool songs written by others. “The Covers EP: Volume 2” includes tunes by Hank Williams, CAKE, Ryan Adams and the aforementioned Huey Lewis & The News.
Before the record was even cut, The Brothers Comatose created a video of Lewis’ “I Want a New Drug,” with a message to the author. Then Ben Morrison emailed it to him. Lewis immediately replied, saying he liked the bluegrass arrangement of his song and posted it on his social media. The video went viral.
“To get an email from Huey Lewis is one of the coolest things that’s ever happen to me,” Morrison said, sharing his summer plans with Tahoe Onstage as he drank beers with friends in a San Francisco pub.
After it debut at The Saint in Reno on April 26, The Brothers Comatose, who have a number of new songs, will record three, 4-track EPs with three different producers and then put them all together for a full-length album. It will be the first time the band has worked with an outside producer.
“It’s a little scary but pretty exciting,” Morrison said.
If all goes as scheduled, the album could be released by the time the band makes its third appearance this summer at the High Sierra Music Festival.
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ABOUT Tim Parsons
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.