Larry Brown Amen, the winning debut album of Missing Cats due for release in September, is the collaborative effort of longtime friends Jojo Hermann (piano/vocals) and Sherman Ewing (guitar/vocals). They became acquainted back in the '80s at Columbia University, and sharing a passion for songwriting, they formed Sherman and the Bureaucrats and played together until Hermann moved to Mississippi, while Ewing remained in New York. Hermann began playing with the Athens, Georgia band Widespread Panic in 1992.
Ewing, after playing with various bands around the city, began a solo career in 2002. The two reunited in 2006, started writing some new songs and resumed touring with material from their solo albums, Sherman's Single Room Saloon and Hermann's Smiling Assassin.
The new album, described by Hermann as "New York City meets Mississippi meets Athens, GA meets Nashville," features a dozen songs, 11 written by some combination of the two artists and at times a friend or two. Joined by a stellar host of musical cohorts—Sam Bush, Anthony Krizan, Luther and Cody Dickenson, Chad Cromwell, Guthrie Trapp, Mike Mills, Jesse Alexander, among others—they recorded the album live in Nashville over four days with Grammy-nominated producer Jon Randall Stewart. What they came up with is an album that can best be described as rock and roll roots with an edge.
Although you can't always tell who's playing on each individual track, there is some truly fine instrumental work throughout the album. Listen to the guitar work at the end of "How We Go From Here" and especially "Half Way to the Top." These are musicians who can rock with the best of them and when they get a chance to let loose, they make the most of it. The raucous "Body in the River," which has echoes of early Bob Dylan in the vocals, has them at the top of their game. Hermann works the keys with passion, and Luther Dickerson adds some powerful guitar lines. "Marissa" is a traditional rocker with a catchy hook. Hermann's piano reminds me of the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino.