Carolinian – Features
Issue: 3/3/03

A Brotherly Act
By Joanna Yu

Every once in a while, there comes along something so fascinatingly bizarre that you can’t help but mentally point and gape–the Chia Pet, children on leashes, peanut butter and jelly in a jar–together! Such is the case with Greensboro’s own True Brothers, who affectionately call their guitars “machine guns,” dress alike, make references to their non-existent backing band, and perform while bouncing jokes between them.

The True Brothers are, as you might have surmised from their name, brothers. However, these aren’t ordinary siblings–no, they are the True Brothers and they play old country and western tunes with an enthusiastic kitschy fervor. This dynamic duo combines traditional C & W songs with their own brand of humorous brother-related banter, all of which results in a type of peculiar show that might better be classified as an act rather than a band.

Friday night’s show at The Green Bean in downtown Greensboro featured Ed Ward as the opening act, with the Brothers to follow. Encased in a spiffy red and black ensemble, Ward took the stage with the practiced professionalism of one accustomed to long hours spent in front of his home karaoke machine. “I Fought the Law,” the rockabilly number by Bobby Fuller was the night’s opener, which quickly progressed into various renditions of such songs as Dion’s “The Wanderer” and several Elvis numbers. Midway through the set things started loosening up as Ward felt comfortable enough to show off his sharp moves on the dance floor as he broke out into a modified hustle.

Although his Elvis songs elicited appreciative hoots and hollers from the crowd, by the time he got to his plaintive version of Englebert Humperdink’s “Please Release Me,” even he was checking his watch to see when it would be all over. People started getting shifty in their seats when the music took a turn toward the gospel-inflected tunes and when he began to croon his ballads; it was obviously time to go. Thankfully, the appropriately titled “If It Don’t Work Out” drifted out the set and everyone waited expectantly for the main attraction to start.

For those who don’t know, Jacky and Roger True live on S. Chapman St., and they are prone to throwing bi-annual weenie roasts where they regale the audience with their corny shtick and free food. Dressed alike in their black leather blazers and tall black cowboy hats, the duo cut a striking figure silhouetted in the window of the coffeeshop. It’s difficult to categorize them. They certainly know their country music history and silly as they may seem, they do cover the songs with aplomb and they can definitely work a room.

Covering a wide array of songs from “Your Cheatin’ Heart” to the Harlan Howard classic “The Streets of Baltimore,” many of those in attendance that night were fans who had seen them before.

“I’ve known about them ever since I came to Greensboro and this is my third time seeing them,” said Jessica Rolland, graduate student at UNCG.

With their odd mix of prerecorded backing music, slightly askew timing, and cheesy banter, the True Brothers are certainly unusual. What isn’t unusual though, is to catch Jacky enthusiastically yelling behind his back to where a band would normally be–“Hit it boys!”

It comes as a surprise how sincere the brothers are. There is a palpable love of the music and although the sound was a bit sub-par on Friday night, their showmanship did manage to peek out a bit here and there.

According to Rolland, “They’re better suited to playing in their backyard because of the family atmosphere and they’re so genuine, they just make you smile.”

Unfortunately, as fun as the show started out as, it certainly hit its peak around the tenth song or so–that’s when everyone began to scatter and many of the songs started to mesh together. Even their fancy monogrammed guitars couldn’t save them as they managed to perform more than fifteen songs.

“The novelty of it seemed to wear off as it dragged on,” said Gina Pennington, senior at UNCG.

There was an overwhelmingly surreal sensation being at the super-modern The Green Bean, while cowboy hats roamed about, and schmaltzy oldies and country and western tunes were being blared out of the speakers. If you’re looking for something bizarre and fun to do that will put a smile on your face, keep your eyes peeled for the next True Brothers weenie roast.