The self-effacing trio We Are Augustines have been making music and friends, quietly and largely unnoticed except by we lucky few. They peviously served a long and bruising apprenticeship as Pela, and more recently reverted to simply Augustines, after resolving a name dispute. This music grips me. Not just a gentle tug but a vice-like clamp; a feeling my very being has been wrenched into the songwriter's world, at once strange and scary yet hauntingly familiar.
Debut album Rise Ye Sunken Ships hardly made a splash in these days of autotune, brash vulgarity and manufactured style, yet for the discerning listener it is a stunning creation. Hard on the heels of his brother's tragic suicide and that of his mother years earlier, singer Billy McCarthy poured out his own despair and intensely personal emotions into twelve tracks, a powerful testament combining poetry and gentle minor key melody. The album is never an easy listen. Every song is achingly sad, yet there is an undercurrent of triumphant resolution which draws me to listen to it again and again.
The song Philadelphia. better known by its subtitle and translation, City of Brotherly Love, is a shining example of a timeless brotherly tribute. The studio version rocks hard and the official video splices cuts from the band's numerous passionate and freewheeling gigs. Yet tucked away on YouTube are a couple of live performances where this song is performed as a ballad with sparse piano accompaniment. This is the best I have found:
Just when you thought the most poignant songs in history had long ago been written and performed, along comes this. Even if you don't know Billy McCarthy's history, nor are familiar with the heavier version there can be no mistaking the savage grief and desperation in his cracked voice.
The video is beautifully shot in high definition sepia tones. The audience is hushed and respectful as Billy delivers a spell-binding performance, ragged and on the edge of tears. I defy anyone not to be moved. This is definitively, my kind of music.