The new album from the Cerny Brothers - originally from the Quad Cities area and playing the Redstone Room on November 13 - is called Sleeping Giant, and it delivers on the promise: It's a beast awakened, building on the explosiveness of several tracks from the duo's 2013 self-titled record.

The rock vein is apparent in songs that grow in intensity, but also with the addition of electric guitars to many songs. The album seems designed for radio play and immediate audience connection, and it works as intended. The amazingly consistent duo of Scott and Robert Cerny has produced another front-to-back-solid record, amiable and accessible.

Yet the thicker, louder, more-hook-heavy arrangements obscure some of the brothers' strengths, in particular the distinctiveness of the lead banjo and the naked singing and songwriting that were front-and-center on their previous work. The fuller sound introduces a generic vibe, and even quieter songs feel a little safer - more polished, more cloaked.

Yet the good stuff is still there in abundance, and if there's a problem with Sleeping Giant, it's not the record itself but the high bar set by The Cerny Brothers' "Ohio," "Out of Time" and "The Mountain Song" and Dream's achingly emotional and hauntingly spare "The Thief."

Three rockers kick off the album, but from there the brothers broaden the scope of the record; Sleeping Giant tries a little too hard at the outset, and after that trio of tracks it relaxes into a more-expansive and rich work - more effectively balancing and sequencing moods and styles.

"Middle on Winter" has a clear nihilism ("Life's a bitch and it don't get better / It don't even matter how hard you try") that itself doesn't matter with the bright harmonica, warm groove, and defiantly cheery manner. "Shaking the Blues" has a similarly bold style, with harmonica, banjo, and almost ecstatically joyful singing crafting an upbeat mood that refuses to let the lyrics wallow. "Tears Always Fall" represents the album's most successful marriage of roots rock and the Cernys' distinctive banjo-fueled style, an infectiously raucous and instrumentally detailed song.

But it's in the quieter tracks where the Cerny Brothers really sparkle. "Words Like a Rock" employs swelling soft/loud dynamics with the gentlest of touches (it's more softer/soft), with crooning several times echoing an earlier cello theme over delicate banjo, giving plenty of space to words suggesting a man broken and defeated - "Don't you know / My bones are like sticks / Falling from the sky?").

Most impressive is "Blue Blue Water," whose subdued melancholy climbs in force and shifts easily from introspective self-pity to yearning to a heartfelt expression of friendship and support. It's a stunningly deft sketch done only with vocals and acoustic guitar.

Sleeping Giant certainly shows that the Cerny Brothers can rock out well, but it shows even more forcefully that their musical personalities are clearest when they don't.

The Cerny Brothers will perform on Friday, November 13, at the Redstone Room (129 Main Street, Davneport; The show starts at 7:30 p.m., and tickets are $8 in advance and $10 the day of the show.

For more information on the Cerny Brothers, visit

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