Country rock duo
Unlike other famous brother duos throughout country and rock music history, Andrew and Peter Cash didn't sing together as a team until they were in their 30s. Instead, both had pursued their own musical paths, one as a punk rocker, the other as a country rocker. When the Cash Brothers finally decided to tie their musical fates together, however, they weren't even sure it would work: what if their voices didn't blend well together? The newly christened duo booked time at a Toronto recording studio to satisfy their curiosity. "I remember going into the control room to hear what it sounded like," Andrew Cash recalled in All Music Guide. "We just looked at each other and said: 'Hey, this is going to work.'"
Andrew and Peter Cash were born in Toronto in the early 1960s into a non-musical family. Even as teens, the brothers' paths seldom crossed as they pursued separate interests. Two older brothers influenced their musical development, introducing them to the sounds of Neil Young, the Byrds, and the Flying Burrito Brothers. Besides California country rock, the Cash Brothers listened to British rockers like early Rod Stewart, early Elton John, and the Rolling Stones. Peter Cash eventually started writing, recording, and singing for the Skydiggers, a rootsy alternative country group. Andrew Cash joined L'Estranger with Chuck Angus in 1980, but left the band to pursue a solo career in the mid-1980s. It was only when the two brothers were between projects in 1997 that they decided to record their first track together. "Something about the way we sing together feels really great," Andrew Cash told Elita Bradley in the Washington Times, "even when we're singing out of tune together."
Over the next two years the Cash Brothers built a repertoire of 40 songs, and in 1999 included 11 of those on their first album, Raceway. While honing their songwriting skills, the brothers were also careful to build their careers slowly. "We're coming together for the first time," Andrew Cash told Frank Goodman for Pure Music online, "at the point where lots of brothers who worked together aren't speaking to each other anymore.... We've taken it kind of slowly, partially because we've both been in enough bands to know what a grind it can be at some points." Peter Cash concurred. "It helps to have a lot of songs, as far as making the whole ship sail better, or smoother," he told Regis Behe in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. "If something isn't working, we quickly move on, and it's not a bad thing."
The Cash Brothers patience paid off in 2001 when the independent Zoë label gave Raceway a facelift, retitling it How Was Tomorrow? and making several track changes. With acoustic and jangly electric guitars backing up pristine harmony, the brothers concocted a catchy classic rock sound that harked back to Bruce Springsteen. Indeed, the connections to the "Boss" are made obvious on the cut titled "Nebraska." In the song, the narrator eases his troubled mind after a break-up by driving around town and listening to Springsteen's Nebraska. How Was Tomorrow? also generated a strong critical response. Matt Fink in FAME called it "smart, sincere, and extraordinarily consistent," adding that the album "proves that the Cash legacy might be sprouting new branches but from a totally different tree."
How Was Tomorrow? 's well-crafted songs impressed critics. "Night Shift Guru" is a small slice-of-life story about a 7-Eleven clerk killing time by watching himself on the small television screen behind the counter as he munches potato chips. "Guitar Strings and Foolish Things" finds the narrator remembering quiet, elusive moments that occur when he is supposed to be working. Although both brothers compose separately, they attribute each song to the Cash Brothers, partly in realization that composing a song is only half the battle. "Sometimes the writing of the song isn't necessarily the hardest part," Peter told Goodman. "A lot more may be involved to get it arranged and sounding right. Say I write a song, but Andrew spends a lot more time than I did writing it tweaking it in various ways to get it to sound very special on record."
The Cash Brothers also developed a solid reputation for their live shows. Following the release of How Was Tomorrow?, they toured the United States, including opening for the Jayhawks in Atlanta. According to Stephen King in the British Birmingham Post, "From the moment the pair struck up their chiming guitars and demonstrated their close harmonizing, one knew this was no ordinary outfit."
In 2003 the Cash Brothers released A Brand New Night, further enhancing their reputation. "The song writing is the same," Peter Cash told John Hayes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "but the big thing for this record is that we basically [went] a little more electric than the last one. It's to try to give it some variety." A Brand New Night also showed the band creating an eclectic repertoire, stretching from mellow ballads like "Fire Dying" and the title track to the funky, brash "Give Me Your Hips." The duo also continued to sharpen its songwriting skills, capturing the small details that make up everyday life. "At their best," wrote Hayes, "Toronto's Cash Brothers' stories are charcoal outlines of vacant emotions, delivered in an acoustic, just-behind-the-beat alt-country whine."
The Cash Brothers' combination of folk, rock, and country harmonies has made the band difficult for critics to categorize. The brother harmony reminds many of older country music, while the combination of acoustic and electric guitar reminds others of folk rock. But Andrew and Peter Cash would rather not be pigeonholed. "There are categories like alt-country or rock or neo-folk, but they don't necessarily apply to what we do," Andrew Cash told Behe. In the end, however, what has mattered is the quality of the Cash Brothers' music itself. Wrote Goodman, "Their classic brothers harmony in both arrangement and execution and their excellent and experienced songwriting are the two factors that shot them to the front of a crowded class."
For the Record . . .
Formed the Cash Brothers, 1997; recorded Raceway, 1999; released How Was Tomorrow? on Zoë Records, 2001; recorded A Brand New Night, 2003.
Addresses: Record company— Zoë Records, One Camp Street, Cambridge, MA 02140, phone: 617-354-4840, website: http://www.rounder.com. Website— Cash Brothers Official Website: http://www.cashbrothers.com.
Raceway, Cash Brothers, 1999; reissued, Universal, 2001.
How Was Tomorrow?, Zoë, 2001.
(Contributor) Roots Music: An American Journey, Rounder, 2001.
A Brand New Night, Zoë, 2003.
Birmingham Post (England), November 29, 2001, p. 15.
Tribune-Review, August 17, 2003.
Washington Times, January 17, 2002, p. 2.
"Cash Brothers," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (February 2, 2004).
"Conversation With the Cash Brothers," Pure Music, http://www.puremusic.com/cash1.html (February 2, 2004).
"How Was Tomorrow?, " FAME, http://www.acousticmusic.com/fame/p01809.htm (February 2, 2004).
"Music Preview," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, http://post-gazette.com (February 2, 2004).
—Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.
"Cash Brothers." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (March 22, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/cash-brothers
"Cash Brothers." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved March 22, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/cash-brothers