Talkin’ Soul With The Brothers Chaffey

The Ottawa XPressJanuary 24, 2008

This Is Your Dad’s Oldsmobile

The Brothers Chaffey are brave old souls in a brave new world

The Brothers Chaffey – Matthew (rhythm guitar) and Curtis (lead guitar) – play the sexiest country-soul music with a blues-rock swagger that one university rag called “your dad’s kinda music.” Rather than take issue with the putdown, Matthew, the elder of the sibling duo, is proud of his old-timer rock-and-country chops.

“I grew up listening to a lot of Elvis and Waylon Jennings,” says the 29-year-old, crediting his dad’s record collection, which included everything from Charles Brown and Fats Domino to Solomon Burke and CCR.

But it’s Emmylou Harris’s Boulder to Birmingham that influenced I Heard You Call My Name off the pair’s debut album, Harbord Street Soul (2005), which gives the lyrics a late-’70s feel.

The 2005 album was produced in Toronto by Alec Fraser (David Wilcox, Jeff Healy) and Michael Fonfara (Lou Reed) and, at the end of the month, Ken Friesen (Tragically Hip, Hawksley Workman) will be producing the Chaffeys’ next record, which will include bassist Dave Macdonald and Nick Diak on drums.

The boys have brought their vintage sound to bars in Toronto at NXNE, and across Ottawa to Almonte and Perth. They’re talented, young, and their look makes you long for a time when Robert Redford and Clint Eastwood lit up screens with barely contained virility.

With all this appeal, how come they’re still under the radar?

“They smoke too much pot,” says one of their peers about the duo’s efforts at self-promotion.

“There’s some truth to that,” Matthew laughs. “But we also don’t know where we fit in and what we’re supposed to do. We just do our thing.”

This seems to be the story of Matthew’s life: At 29 years old, he’s spent half his life “just waiting around, trying to get it right.” These are his words on the album’s opening track, Drums, Guitars & Things, and he’s unapologetic about his choice to drop out of high school to pursue music.

In true country fashion, this has permeated the band’s music with a wise-man treatment of contemporary themes. For example, on You’ve Got to Be Strong, Matthew cautions the modern girl against trying to fit in. But are the younger crowds getting it?

“I’ve often wondered that myself,” says Matthew on kids today. “You turn on the TV and there are girls just whorin’ it up,” he complains. “Today, everyone’s too fuckin’ flaky when it comes to tattoos and piercings. I’m not a prude or anything like that and I don’t need lines drawn in the sand, but there are no lines anymore. Girls in high school look like they’re in a strip club. I’m not trying to pass judgment on it, you do what you want to do, but sometimes it throws me for a loop, you know?”

Sometimes it’s comforting to know there’s still room in this world for a couple of old souls, trying to get by on what they believe is right.