Since moving back to the area three years ago (three years already?!), one thing that I’ve discovered is that Pittsburgh is an embarrassment of riches as far as music is concerned. We may not have the hipster cache of Portland or Austin, nor the widely acknowledged and mythologized history of New Orleans and Chicago. But I’m consistently amazed at the quality of musicians floating around this city that I so happily call home. My most recent discovery is Broken Fences, an acoustic duo who’ve just released their self-titled debut. (I admit that I first learned of them via my students, so kudos to the Local Limelite team at WIUP-FM.)
Broken Fences includes Pittsburgh native Guy Russo and Morgan Erina, who hails from New York City. After meeting at one of Pittsburgh’s most storied open-mic nights (at Club Cafe on the city’s South Side), Erina and Russo raised money through a Kickstarter campaign to finance the recording and production of their first album. The result is a spellbinding LP of heartfelt lyrics, intricate acoustic arrangements, and the best blended vocal harmonies that I’ve heard in some time. (For the record, their harmonies are no less impressive live.)
On a personal note, this type of musical formula (acoustic duo pour their hearts out in harmony) has immense potential for pretentiousness. Broken Fences’ lack of pretense is part of what makes their music so appealing. The duo effectively write lyrics that are straightforward, but have great emotional depth, relateable without employing cliches. Rest assured – this isn’t your run of the mill “coffee house” bullshit. It’s simply some of the most sincere, affecting, and beautifully arranged music that I’ve heard this year – in Pittsburgh or elsewhere.
Broken Fences’ self-titled debut is out now on CD and in a name-your-price digital format via bandcamp.com.
Check out “Simplicity,” one of my personal favorites from the album: