The Barmitzvah Brothers – Growing Branches

If a point can be identified where a musician goes too far in mixing their personal life with their career, it’s a safe bet Jenny Mitchell crossed the line a long time ago.

In 2008, Mitchell put together the admittedly ambitious Charlotte Or Otis, an album of duets recorded under her Jenny Omnichord moniker and aimed at commemorating the birth of her first child with husband/producer Andy Magoffin. It’ll be an impressive memento for little Otis to show off to his friends when he grows up, but it was too precious a project for the average listener to approach—a fans-only sorta disc.

Here we are three years later (like rabbits, these two) and we’ve got another baby dedication album, this one released on the birth day of the Mitchell/Magoffin clan’s newest progeny, Arrow. It might have been too much to take, if it didn’t also mark Mitchell’s return into the fold of Guelph, Ontario’s once mighty Barmitzvah Brothers (their first album together since 2007’s Let’s Express Our Motives).

While it’s true that old alliances die hard, it seems they’re more prone to influence in their waning years. You can tell from a quick glance at these song titles—“Family Album,” “The Fun Of Two”—that Growing Branches is a Mitchell album, through and through. It definitely benefits from having the old crew along as a foil, though; this is the kind of landscape in which The Barmitzvah Brothers have always thrived: making hokey subject matter sound like a serious collection. Growing Branches is still half the time hammy and self-indulgent (Mitchell sings at least one tune from the perspective of her unborn child), but it’s no more preposterous a scheme than a She & Him Christmas album.

Not quite the makings of a triumphant return, but a decent hint that The Barmitzvah Brothers still have what it takes to conjure a few magical moments (see: the Geordie Gordon-sung “Getting Closer”). It’d be interesting to see what these kids could come up with, these days, writing an entire album together from scratch.

-Scott Bryson

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