April 18, 2017 by Jay Minkin
The artistic energy flowing from local songwriters, all in their mid-twenties is just incredible. Making fast strides are The Gage Brothers, who have gone from playing open mics to playing premier area clubs that are best known for hosting national touring artists like The Beachland Ballroom & Tavern, Music Box Supper Club, Happy Dog, and the GAR Hall.
Older brother Ben Gage (harmonica/Cajon beat box) and his younger brother Zach Gage (guitar, lead vocals) were playing music at church and began practicing folk songs afterwards at home. This led to the duo performing in Akron at open mics and taverns in 2014, eventually breaking into Cleveland’s music network a year later. One night, local mandolinist Brendan O’Malley was tending bar at a tavern where the brothers were performing and happened to have his instrument with him. The trio started performing together and was joined at one gig by singer/songwriter Chris Volpe who added banjo and pedal steel – what proved to be the finishing touch to their sound.
All four members of the Gage Brothers sing, layering their vocal harmonies together like something created in the back kitchen of local chain Melt Bar & Grilled, the famed kitschy eatery of gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. “As area musicians become aware of each other, it helps to get feedback on strengths and weaknesses” exclaims Ben Gage. “The community is now a tight knit group and Cleveland is a very cool place to make music. Venue owners and others who support the working musicians are helping make our talents more known.”
The foursome will be releasing their self-titled second full length record officially on April 22nd with eleven original songs and one cover as the follow-up to Take It Back in 2015. “We have seen a lot of changes since we started, be it in our music, society, or relationships” says Ben. “This album holds songs all about change – how they affect who and what you are.” Kevin Martinez – who has played with The Speedbumps and Roger Hoover – was brought in to play bass on the recordings. The album was produced and mixed by Jim Stewart Recording which has become the premier Cleveland studio for artists.
The album grabs your attention immediately with a snippet of a Capella before launching into the radio friendly “All You Are”, a song that had been part of the brother’s early repertoire finally tracked with a full ensemble of players. The band uses different instruments to carry each song adding fills from the rest to give a subtle change from track to track. A sincere sweetness extrudes from Zach’s vocals on “Where Can I Go” as does a song written after a trip to NYC titled “Gone” giving The Gage Brothers a change of perspective when seeing something new. With the flip of a coin, a tale of waking up with a hangover and continued drinking laments darkness with “Me and Myself”. One song in particular that will catch your ear is titled “Caged”, which tells a story about a coal miner who carries a bird not just to hope it continues singing while he’s in the mine, but also to remind him of what there is in the world worth loving. “Caged” is one of two songs with Ben on lead vocals; the other being “Teaching Myself The Blues” that will remind you of the Steeldrivers at The Station Inn. “I’m So Lonesome” will transcend you to some lonely bar with the jukebox playing a Hank or George Jones song. The boys included one of my favorite songs, “I’ll Be The One”, that has been a staple in live performances and always gets the crowd participating. The record saves two wonderful songs near the end as “Come Home” centers around how getting into fights over a difference of opinion makes neither right nor wrong so just work it out. The other gorgeous ballad touches on how life transitions like nature in “Third Season” that will not only touch your heart, but your emotional soul. The traditional song “No More Auction Block For Me” pays homage to African American roots culture singing Civil War era hymns closes things out appropriately with a touch of gospel harmonies as a reminder of where the Gage Brothers journey began.
The boys will be kicking off the release with an intimate performance at the GAR Hall on Saturday, April 22nd along with opening for one of my favorite bands Jamestown Revival at The Grog Shop on June 11th. In-between and this summer, they will be taking the show on the road to Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York, and several others locations from southern Ohio to Connecticut. The band’s stage presence recently expanded with the addition of Caty Peterslidge on fiddle. It has given The Gage Brothers sound yet another jewel to be considered one of the finest ensembles in “The Land”.