Dave and Joey Landreth were still in their early 20s when they met Bonnie Raitt backstage at the Winnipeg Folk Festival in 2014. They had just released their debut album under the name The Bros. Landreth and were all but unknown outside of Winnipeg, but they were given the honour of playing on the same stage as the headliner, much earlier in the day, but, still, it was their idol, Bonnie Raitt.
Raitt had heard the local buzz about The Bros. Landreth and came out early to catch their act. She chatted with them backstage, giving them some over-the-top encouragement, telling them their songcraft was in the same league as legendary acts like Little Feat and The Band.
They exchanged emails, starting a long-term mentorship that would result this year in Raitt recording a cover of an early Landreth Bros. tune called “Made Up Mind.” The song became the lead single off Raitt’s new album “Just Like That,” which debuted last month at the top of the Billboard Charts, with the multiple Grammy-winning singer performing it on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
The timing couldn’t have been better for The Bros. Landreth, who are kicking off a national tour in Hamilton June at Mills Hardware to promote their third album “Come Morning.”
“We’re still wrapping our head around it,” Joey, 34, says in an interview from Winnipeg. “It’s been a tremendously good year for us. It is such an influx of energy to have that kind of validation from someone you admire so deeply. It’s not something we ever imagined happening.”
“And then to hear (Raitt’s) recording, it’s pretty true to our own version,” adds Joey, who handles guitar and most of the lead vocals in the band. “She didn’t change it much. That is tremendous validation.”
The brothers first heard about Raitt working on their song from the Nashville grapevine after noted session guitarist Kenny Greenberg walked into a music store and asked a guitar tech for pointers on how to emulate Joey’s guitar sound.
“It was all rumours,” says Dave, 36, the band’s bassist. “Then they reached out just before Christmas and gave us the best Christmas present we could imagine. It was a letter from management with a bunch of notes from Bonnie, saying ‘Hey, guys, we’re very pleased to let you know this song made the record and it’s the first single. We really hope you like it.’”
Bros. Landreth Facebook message for Bonnie.
What a fun weekend it’s been. We’re truly overwhelmed with gratitude. Thanks again and a heartfelt congratulations to Bonnie Raitt and her incredible band: James “Hutch” Hutchinson Kenny Greenberg Glenn Patscha #RickyFataar and Ryan Freeland too. Feeling on top of the world over here folks!
“It’s a funny experience because the song now feels like her song,” Dave adds. “We feel excited like a parent would … kind of like ‘I may have brought you into the world, but we’re proud that you’re doing your own thing now.’”
The Bros. Landreth new album, released May 13 on their own Birthday Cake Records label, still contains plenty of the roots/Americana sound that drew Raitt to the band.
But it also sports a much more sophisticated sound, sometimes reminiscent of the 70s soft-rock of Hall and Oates, especially on the lead-off single “Stay.”
Listen to Stay now at https://birthdaycake.ffm.to/stay.oyd
Laden with sweet melodies and smooth harmonies, it’s a sound that was once disparaged as “yacht rock.” Recent trends, however, have given new meaning to the term. “Yacht rock” is now cool. Millennials have re-discovered the blue-eyed soul of the 70s.
“Dude, we love Hall and Oates,” says Dave, who shares songwriting duties with his younger brother. “I’m a massive fan. A lot of people have made that reference, but it was not at all deliberate. We were not trying to channel things. We were just playing in the sandbox and making stuff until it sounded right. When your influences run so deep, they just have a way of presenting themselves. It was just a by-product of immersing ourselves in all these different sounds.”
One of the reasons the brothers chose Hamilton as the place to launch their tour is because of the many fond memories they have of the city.
Back in 2009, when the Winnipeg Folk Festival announced it would be expanding to a five-day format to accommodate the tour routing of Britpop icon Elvis Costello, it seemed like a ballsy move. Even diehard folkies were divided; would five days be too much of a good thing?
Their debut album “Let It Lie” (which contains the original version of “Made Up Mind”) earned roots and traditional album of the year at the 2015 Junos in Hamilton. At the same ceremony, Dave’s wife Roberta, a graphic artist, also won for best album art of the year.
“Hamilton has always been really good to us,” Joey says. “It’s very Winnipeggy, a blue-collar town of hard-working people. Both places don’t necessarily have the best reputations, but they’re rich with culture, rich with arts. Hamilton has always been a special spot and the crowds are killer.”