In 2012, local band Fedora changed their name to The Family Business. Though a new moniker doesn't necessarily lead to a different sound, it can signal a new approach or a desire to reach out to additional audiences. Fedora seemed to emphasize singer Alec White's ability to croon like a member of the Rat Pack. But his band has much more to offer, as their track "Chances" illustrates. With the new name comes a commitment to exploring new musical territory and highlighting the group's instrumental talent.
"Chances" is earthier than a Rat Pack song, as well as "Sing," the Sinatra-esque tune that precedes it on the Family Business' new album, Rock and Roll Machine. Its intro reminds me of a Handsome Family song from the early 2000s, played at a faster clip. The Family Business set the song's tone with strings, establishing a propulsive beat with a guitar during the first few seconds. On top of this they add an arpeggio-based loop that rings out like a music box, adding a hint of nostalgia while urging listeners to tap their toes.
White's voice recalls Johnny Cash when it enters, noting that "most of us will do what we're told/With someone else in control ... Your life is always beating on the back of your mind/And it's up to you to find it." The accompaniment's insistent rhythm sounds like life rapping on the door that separates the front of the mind from the rear. When White dips into his lower register, it's hard not to imagine the Man in Black, but he rarely sounds derivative. Instead, he's like an old sage who sees through someone's façade: "There's weather in your eyes from what's behind them ... from all the times you chose to try and hide them."
These elements alone would make an appealing song, but the band take things a step further with smart use percussion and brass. The second verse starts with a series of thuds that lend drama to the proceedings. Then the mood lightens in an interlude featuring a playful trumpet and strings. This section may remind some listeners of Andrew Bird's work in his late-'90s group, Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire, especially when Kenny Leiser's violin tremolos up a scale, then vanishes into thin air.
MadTracks highlights and provides MP3s of songs performed by local musicians. All tracks here are provided with permission of the artist. If you are a musician based in the Madison metro area and are interested in sharing your work as a MadTrack, please send a message.