Messerly & Ewing - Every Bitter Thing


Nov 16, 2011 at 9:57 am

Cincinnati’s Messerly & Ewing is the 17-year-old songwriting partnership of musicians Mark Messerly and Brian Ewing, whose catalog has been remarkably consistent from the start. But that doesn’t mean that the duo hasn’t progressed and evolved over the years. Every Bitter Thing finds the twosome in peak form, featuring some of the best songwriting in their decades-crossing career. Perhaps it’s the comfort of their creative brotherhood — both stay busy with other projects, particularly Messerly, who plays bass (and many other instruments) with Wussy. Or maybe it’s the growth of Messerly & Ewing into a cohesive band unit; on Every Bitter Thing, bassist Sean Rhiney and drummer Bill Donabedian find a tasteful groove behind the duo’s well-crafted, highly melodic sound and contribute greatly to it. The album, as a result, is the most “Rock & Roll” in the M&E catalog. In the beginning, the duo’s sound was often pegged as “Folk” or “Roots Rock,” but Every Bitter Thing shows those influences more subtly integrated and less obvious. Messerly & Ewing do recall The Jayhawks, not so much sonically (although there are some similarities) but in the way the two singers’ voices combine so perfectly in harmony — they are Cincinnati’s equivalent of Mark Olsen and Gary Louris. But one of the more notable things about the album is that the band it most sounds like is Messerly & Ewing; the duo has constructed and fine-tuned their sound so expertly, they’ve become the kind of band whose music you hear and can instantly identify as M&E. Every Bitter Thing is an emotionally moving record — the songs seem generally about feeling deep love ... and losing that feeling — and the electric guitar work (which hovers in the R.E.M./U2 realm) is particularly effective. But it’s, as always with M&E, those ear-hijacking melodies that’ll keep listeners coming back for more. Messerly & Ewing celebrate their new release Friday at The Comet with a free show with guests Shiny and the Spoon. Grade: B+