NEW YORK CITY (June 1, 2023) – Brewflies release “Rain Down Mercy” on August 11. The album documents their Covid-19 experience through interpretations of noteworthy songs representing the period. Artists represented on the album include Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and Mary Gauthier, and three original songs by their musical soulmate and collaborator, Michael Veitch.

Unlike any other band experience, Brewflies members Larry Brittain and Billy Clockel weathered over 40 years, the making of “Rain Down Mercy” started in a COVID-draped, isolated, and online musical experience that, day by day, morphed into the album. When COVID exploded in late winter of 2020, it seemed to come like an Old Testament angel of death seeping into every corner, putting an exclamation point on a series of plagues that had already worked their terrible political, social, and moral chaos. The songs in this collection grew, first, out of the desperate need to keep a musical communication going in the face of that plague’s—and all the other plagues’— unprecedented forces of isolation and despair, division and fear, frustration and hatred. They noticed a kind of narrative in the evolved song choices that reflected a crippled world slowly finding its feet again. They don’t make some claim that theirs is any sort of landmark or defining response to all this. Brewflies say that it is just their attempt to open their musical conversation and collaborative attempt to come to grips with the moment for the listener.

The first song in this narrative arc is “For What It’s Worth,” Stephen Stills’ brilliant evocation of the Sunset Strip protests of the 1960s, which has perfectly encapsulated the sense of dread that seems to accompany all social movements of the following 50-plus years. They were drawn to Springsteen’s “Johnny 99” which sketched out some of the anxiety, dread, and violence that was already a chronic plague before the pandemic, and Fogerty’s “Fortunate Son,” a nod to recent avid or wanna-be combat Commanders-in-Chief with dubious exemptions from the military.

On this recording, as on their last two, they found inspiration in original songs by their friend and collaborator, Michael Veitch; this time, two songs about the struggle against hatred, repression, and isolation—“Anything Is Possible” and “Above the Rain” (which were featured in the recent PBS documentary We Remember: Songs of Survivors) drew them in, and though they were grounded in a horrible historical circumstance, they also seemed to speak to the moment. Each song tells the personal story of a Holocaust survivor whom Veitch visited and then composed a brilliant song out of that story. In each case, despite the hardships and horrors experienced by the survivor/narrator, there is an expression of almost unfathomable hope and faith.

The anguish and ultimate defiance of the speaker of Woody Guthrie’s “I Ain’t Got No Home” still voices the pain and determination of the oppressed and down-trodden today. Mary Gauthier’s “Mercy Now,” makes an eloquent plea for understanding the pain of those nearest to us who are overwhelmed and sometimes warped, like Johnny in Springsteen’s tune, to reach for the easy solution of violence and hate…to institutions that take on similar characteristics, to even ourselves, who’d look to deny our involvement in a world wounded by humanity itself…and yet, upon all of us, and in spite of all of us, Gauthier’s song pleads for mercy. Through that understanding and compassion, a way of coping presented itself to the band in songs like Mark Knopfler’s  “Why Worry Now,” Lennon and McCartney’s “Wait” and Vetich’s “Try, Try, Try.” 

In the last stage in this album’s narrative arc, Brewflies see a summation of the recent epoch of dread encased in a silver lining of hope in Robbie Robertson and the Band’s brilliant song “The Rumor”  which begins with the ominous “Now when the rumor/Comes to your town,/It grows and grows,/Where it started no one knows.” They follow that up with the Band’s one-time boss, Bob Dylan, picking up the theme with his joyous “New Morning.” They end the album with a coda, a song written, again, in different circumstances, that acknowledges our collective human insignificance and impotence in the face of nature’s sometimes harsh backslap at our irrelevance and our own stupidity, greed, and jealousy; a song that is a reminder of how significant and potent our small gestures of grace, compassion, and love can be, which can “make it seem better, for a while,” even in the midst of the plagues of a pandemic, racial animosity, political lies, and war: Iris Dement’s “My Life.”

The album is a humble plea and a petition, a confession and an expression of thanksgiving…and a simple “prayer” that we all rain down mercy on ourselves, each other, and our lonely planet.

Brewflies are:

– Larry (Lars) Brittain—lead electric and acoustic guitars, rhythm guitars, lead and harmony vocals

– Billy Clockel—String bass, electric bass, acoustic Guild bass.

– Kirsti Gholson—Lead and harmony vocals

– Jeff Schmich—Mandolin, lead and harmony vocals

-Dan Hickey–Drums and percussion

-Professor Louie–piano and organ

-Joshua Pearl –piano and organ

-Gary Oleyar–fiddle

-Jimmy Heffernan–dobro

-Tony Trischka–banjo on “Above the Rain” and “Fortunate Son”

-E’lissa Jones–cello on “My Life”

– Additional background vocals arranged by Kirsti Gholson, E’lissa Jones, and Aaron Hurwitz.

-Marie Spinosa (Miss Marie) joined Professor Louie with her powerful harmonies on “Johnny 99.”

-Grammy winner Lisa Gutkin plays violin in “Mercy Now.” 

“Rain Down Mercy” Track Listing 

  1. For What It’s Worth—(Buffalo Springfield–Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Richie Furay)
  2. Anything Is Possible–(Michael Veitch)
  3. Mercy Now–(Mary Gauthier)
  4. Johnny 99–(Bruce Springsteen)
  5. Above the Rain–(Michael Veitch)
  6. I Ain’t Got No Home–(Woody Guthrie)
  7. Fortunate Son–(Creedence Clearwater Revival…John Fogerty)
  8. Why Worry Now–(Mark Knopfler…Don and Phil Everly, Chet Atkins)
  9. Wait–(The Beatles…John Lennon and Paul McCartney)
  10.  Who Are You Redbird?–(writers Beth Husband and Milan Miller)
  11.  Those Memories (of You Still Haunt Me–(writer Alan O’Bryant)
  12.  Try, Try, Try–(Michael Veitch)
  13.  The Rumor–(The Band…Robbie Robertson)
  14.  New Morning–(Bob Dylan)
  15.  My Life–(Iris Dement)

About the Brewflies

Brewflies’ roots run deep. Over the 40+ years the Brewflies members have been together in various musical projects, their musical tastes have changed, but none were ever left behind. Larry Brittain, Billy Clockel, and Jeff Schmich officially formed Brewflies in 1994 as an acoustic bluegrass trio. Early on, the British invasion bands, particularly the Beatles, were important. So were the Motown sounds, the emerging horn bands of the ‘70s, and folk and country artists who guided their musical approach and sound. When the Brewflies recorded their first album, “On The Fly,” in 2008, the band started experimenting with a newgrass sound and integrated more folk-rock, jazz, and Latin-Caribbean tilts. Their former collaboration, The Jumbo String Band, appeared with groups including the Lonesome River Band, Del McCory Band, Red Clay Ramblers, Tony Trischka and Skyline, and the Seldom Scene. They were featured with Tom Chapin (Harry Chapin’s brother) in a benefit concert for the Roots music radio programs at WFDU college radio. They also performed at the last Nyon Festival in Switzerland, which featured The Beach Boys, The Pogues, and Chuck Berry.