To start, let’s dispel a catch-all cliché. Talent and ability don’t necessarily need to be confined to a singular niche or any particular area of expertise. Skills and savvy can cross over as far as creativity is concerned.
Likewise, despite the sometimes fractious relationships that exist between male siblings — witness Ray and Dave Davies of the Kinks, the Everly’s, and that turbulent twosome, Noel and Liam Gallagher of Oasis — the brotherly bond ultimately wins out. Indeed, the ability to find inspiration in a common connection never fails to reap remarkable results.
Michael & Kevin Bacon — A.K.A. The Bacon Brothers — offer an ideal example of what can result when two talented individuals who share the same gene pool expand their horizons, combine their talents and create an inspired sound that stands apart and wholly on its own. With ten albums to their credit, spawned over the course of 23 years, it’s clear their band isn’t simply a sideline that supplements their day jobs. Rather, it’s an ongoing effort that’s been accompanied by commitment and creativity. Granted, Kevin’s an award-winning actor with a lengthy film, stage and television resume, and Michael is an Emmy-winning composer, who honed his craft as a songwriter in Nashville in the 70’s, but when the two pool their talents as The Bacon Brothers, the music rings with a resilience all its own.
That’s evidenced once again in their landmark tenth album, The Way We Love, a series of songs that explore those intimate relationships with the people and ideals that become a source of both purpose and passion. Scheduled for release on July 17th with 7 tracks produced by the brothers, 2 by Philadelphia producer/engineer Joe Nicolo, and 1 produced by Saverio Principini, the album includes two exceptional offerings recorded live at Sony Hall in New York City. It’s also one of their most emotionally charged collections to date, and one of their most dynamic and diverse as well.
True to form, the album finds the brothers spanning a wide array of styles and sounds, from the funk-fueled “Play!,” the happy-go-lucky “She-Zee-Zee (Easy On My Eyes)” and the sheer joy and exuberance that fills “British Invasion,” to the care and caress found in the tellingly-titled “The Cooking Song (Add Love and Stir),” the heartfelt ballad “Bigger” and the sweetly assured title track, which is also the album’s third single. Nevertheless, the variety and diversity doesn’t end there. It’s also found in the country twang of the appropriately dubbed “Picker,” a song describing Michael’s early exploits on the mean streets of their native Philadelphia, and “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” a composition by jazz legend Joe Zawinul that features a surprise appearance by New York Yankees legend Bernie Williams as the guest guitarist.
“The songs are all about the things we love, the way we love music, the way we love family, the way we love our wives, the way we love the world and humanity,” Michael notes. “Inevitably, most songs are about love… or lack of love… but people still want to hear them.”
Naturally, none of this ought to come as any surprise to anyone who’s followed The Bacon Brothers throughout the course of their career. Spawned from such seminal influences as The Beatles, the Stones, Motown, Led Zeppelin, Philly soul, the singer/songwriters of the ‘70s and an array of archetypical folkies, the Bacons and their longtime bandmates — Paul Guzzone (bass, backing vocals), Joe Mennonna (keyboards, accordion), Tim Quick (lead guitar, mandolin, backing vocals) and Frank Vilardi (drums) — are committed road warriors whose gigs have taken them from such venerable venues as Carnegie Hall and the Jersey Shore’s legendary Stone Pony to The Grand Ole Opry, as well as incendiary performances for appreciative audiences in Germany and Japan.
“We’ve been doing this for several decades if you go back to when we first had instruments in our hands,” Michael explains. “We were raised in a family that appreciated everything that was artistic. I was in a band with our sister when I was in high school. We were given art lessons and dance lessons and acting lessons. That’s just the kind of family we grew up in. It was just a natural thing for Kevin and I to do things together. I discovered early on that he had a natural gift for sharing sentiments that were personal to him, but in fact universal as far as most people were concerned. That’s really the essence of what our band has been all about and it’s been immensely satisfying to us.”
“Both of us have a strong work ethic and a desire to create,” Kevin adds. “It can be overwhelming at times, especially when considering our other obligations. I’m not one who’s drawn to relaxation (laughs). If I finish one task, I’m always drawn to do something else or get another job. I’m always hungry to work on something, and often that’s when the songs pop up. So that gives me another reason to continue to create.”
It’s little wonder as well that Americana Highways declared “The entire band is precise and honed, you can tell they have been together more than two decades, and that adds to their ability to electrify the audience. This band’s new nickname might as well be the ‘Sizzling Bacon Brothers.’”
Of course that’s always been evident given their ongoing output, from their initial effort, 1997’s Forosoco through their succeeding albums Getting There (1999), Can’t Complain (2001), Live: The No Food Jokes Tour (2003), White Knuckles (2005), New Year’s Day (2009), Philadelphia Road (2011), 36 Cents (2014) and The Bacon Brothers (2018). Each represents an astute example of their devotion to making music that rings with affirmation and authenticity.
“What’s always been surprising to me is that we’ve been able to do it for so long,” Kevin reflects. “The fact that we’ve kept making music is always amazing to me. Every time I write a song, I think it’s the last one I’m ever going to write. Every time we do a record, I’m definitely sure it’s the last record we’re ever going to do. But then we gather more songs. We’re a songwriting band. That’s the beginning and the end. It’s the be-all and the end-all as far as what we do.”