Music Review: The Nace Brothers' 'Space In Time'

Apr 5, 2016

The Nace Brothers
Space In Time

In Kansas City, we’ve depended on the Nace Brothers forever.

Back on New Year’s Eve 1981, when David and Jimmy Nace debuted their band, at least a dozen similar groups roamed eastern and southern Missouri rocking full houses and almost making a living. Even as those bands and the clubs where they were regulars disappeared (the subterranean lair of Blayney’s, for instance), the Nace Brothers have kept filling houses on Friday and Saturday nights – with their own original music.

Their 35-year run as a local band is almost unprecedented. To put this durability in perspective, that’s three-quarters as long as the Allman Brothers, which is to say an eternity (and without the aid an official hiatus). Roots of Steel, a wonderful tribute to the country songs written by their father, Johnny Nace, came out almost twenty years ago, and the brothers still frequently bring his music to life in shows.

The key to their popularity is that, like their dad, they simply build strong songs out of a particular blend of country, blues, and roots rock.

Given this history, it’s no big surprise that their latest, Space In Time, tends to look back on careers, friendships, relationships and road trips with a mix of warmth and sadness. Thirty-five years means hauling around some baggage, so they ask for “a little space in time/where I clear my mind” in the title track. “Everywhere You Go,” a meditation on when (and if) to settle down, seems like a declaration of where the band is now: “Count the times that we left this town/Can’t believe we’re still hanging around/Those crazy plans that never worked out/But it’s all right.”

Not every look back is about contentment and resolution. Friends have passed (“Let’s Get Together”), and society keeps coming apart (“Broken Down”). Getting out of town for a while resulted in “Harding Shore,” a wistful song from the perspective of someone realizing, from the distance of a Massachusetts beach, that he’s “a rich man, without one red cent.” But the rollicking “Always Happy” throws down the band’s motto: “Always happy/Never satisfied.”

Even as these lyrics work through the inevitable changes brought by time, there’s no mistaking the party going on.

A Petty-esque “Let’s Get Together” (with the nudge of “while we’ve still got time”) features the loose, soulful electric piano of T.J. Erhardt, and his accordion is the centerpiece of the apocalyptic zydeco in “I Don’t Think So. Gospel piano and back-up singers with definite Allman influences drive “Sweet Forgiveness.” Closing out the CD is “Mo Twang,” an instrumental workout reminiscent of Les Paul or Chet Atkins, which has the feel of a pre-set-break jam, as if they’re going to be right back. Clearly, there’s more to come.

The history of roots rock is full of bands, especially bands with “brothers” in the title, that have flared up brilliantly and promptly disappeared. But we can still count on the Nace Brothers at the end of those weeks when we need some time with friends who’ve shared our road, and a few hours to clear our own minds.

KCUR contributor Mike Warren has written for a variety of local and national music publications, including No Depression. Follow him @MikeWarrenKC.