Record Review 

Talk about an impressive trio of firsts: "Raceway," the first track on the Cash Brothers' first album, also is the Canadian duo's first songwriting experiment as a pair. And while it may not be the most arresting example of their wistful, wind-burned roots rock, it does cut to the crux of a late-blossoming catharsis that's as much about blood ties as it is about creative differences.

Half-whispering over a late-day shadow of a melody, Peter and Andrew Cash -- a mere 20 months apart in age -- sound as if they've been singing together since preschool. And while Peter's raspy lower register should prompt Steve Earle comparisons, How Was Tomorrow is less about Earle's warts-and-all alt-country agenda than it is about the Cash Brothers matching their contrasting backgrounds and tastes to the spirit of the song. The guys aren't shy about talking up their influences: "Nebraska," part scribbled journal entry, part land-locked slash-and-burn epic, flatters the Boss the way no label-assembled tribute album ever could. Andrew's arty tenor and guitar rock résumé figure prominently on "Show Me the Reason," "Night Shift Guru" and "Dream Awake," which charm in an instant, even as they find their way a bit too easily into the Jayhawks' back yard.

Most often, it's Peter's edgier, no-frills approach -- an economy of music and words born out of his love of country music -- that carries the most weight. He alone supplies the friction on the otherwise slick rockers "Take a Little Time" and "Nerve" to the point where you'd almost swear something's burning.


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