Radical Optimism: The Cerny Brothers, December 23 at the Redstone Room Print
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Mick Parsons   
Tuesday, 06 December 2011 05:26

The Cerny Brothers

In an interview, Robert and Scott Cerny – who will be playing as the Cerny Brothers on December 23 at the Redstone Room – said their album Dream grew out of one song: “I Want You to Run.” The record’s second track, it fuses elements of country, folk, and bluegrass with polished vocal and lyrical stylings that sound more like pop.

Starting at an ambling pace, “I Want You to Run” mixes a simple drum and high-hat beat supporting steel and acoustic accompaniment that rolls into the first verse: “I want you to run / Past your childhood home / To the great unknown.”

This verse embodies the major thematic element of the album – that yearning to leave, that desire to take a chance and have someone else come along to share the experience. The writing here has a simple elegance and unforced honesty that work with the intricate pick work to create a sense of urgency. Here there’s a radical optimism that’s at the core of the entire album, a refusal to believe that dreams are better deferred than pursued.

A banjo leads into the chorus, where the song seems to break loose, like a car careening on a twisted back road: “I want you to run / All night long / ’Til we are so from home / I want you to run.”

The song cries of freedom restrained. The verses work with the chorus to snap the music back like a wild dog on a leash. It sounds like one of those songs that simply had to come out.

As a whole, the album recalls Mumford & Sons among its Americana peers. But Dream distinguishes itself by being unique to the Cerny Brothers. They previously released albums under the name Planning the Rebellion, and this 47-minute record has a narrative maturity and coherence. It feels like Robert’s and Scott’s attempt – a mostly successful one – to weave a tapestry sketching their journey from rural Illinois (they’re originally from Sherrard) to the Quad Cities to Los Angeles, where they’re trying to push their career into the next phase. The personal nature of the songs creates a genuine intimacy.

Between “I Want You to Run” and the closing title track, the brothers thread their themes through related stories; the deep longing to escape smacks into the reality that comes with chasing any ambition. “She’s Always on My Mind” and “Caroline” wrap sad and lonely lyrics around pristine stringed instruments. “It’s Too Damn Hard,” and “Don’t Be Afraid of the Light” illustrate the inevitable choice that all star-chasers face – to quit and go home or forge ahead despite the potential for loss and failure.

“Dream” resolves those conflicts with a meditative sound and determined lyrics: “They’re all wrong / I’ll never let their words have holds on me / Keep us in chains from being what we should be.”

Only one song doesn’t fit the general theme: first track “Whoa, Whoa, Whoa.” On instrumental and lyrical levels, it’s hardly a bad song, but it does feel tacked on, as if hoping for a Subaru commercial or a spot on Grey’s Anatomy. While a pop influence is evident throughout Dream – particularly in the vocals – the opener is so fluffy it’s nearly forgettable on this otherwise thoughtful and rich record.

The Cerny Brothers will perform on Friday, December 23, at the Redstone Room (129 Main Street in Davenport). The show starts at 8:30 p.m., and tickets are $7. Tickets and more information are available at RiverMusicExperience.org.

Mick Parsons is a freelance writer, published poet, and former teacher. He lives in northwestern Illinois. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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