Debonzo Brothers

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This Year's Best Album; Top 25 2012

19. Debonzo Brothers - One Damn Heart ( Spotify ) 
band from Raleigh, North Carolina put a little in the same genre as American Aquarium, Sons of Bill and the more rocking version of Whiskeytown.

Americana Roots UK



2012 – Self Released


             This is a very good album despite occasionally overflowing with a wash of sound that seems to obscure some of the quality, almost as if it has been ‘over  produced.’ This despite the fact that with music and vocals of this quality further adornment is unnecessary. The sound is a little dense and muffled on occasions, with the vocals seeming a little too far back in the mix, yet  everything else about the album ranges from being very good to tremendous! Jeff Debonzo’s vocals are as near perfect for this type of music as artists such as
messrs Adams, Tweedy and Farrar, being warm and atmospheric, whilst the harmonies with brother Keef are a match made in heavan. In fact, whilst I’m far from being a fan of the Eagles, I must admit their vocals were second to none and these are in that class. The playing is good and whilst there is that little concern about the sound, this is very close to being a great album with even the lesser songs being very good, but there are several, particularly ‘story’ songs such as the historical Jesse James
and the beautiful sad murder/suicide true story 1905, that are so exceptional you can
actually lose yourself in the pictures and stories they conjure up.            
             The band consists of the already mentioned Jeff and Keef Debonzo who both handle vocals and guitars, as well as all of the songwriting, Chris Hibbard is on drums, Jimmy Thompson, bass and Jay Shirley on organ. Their sound in the main can be considered alt. country but occasionally veers into more of a rootsy indie feel that on a couple of tracks includes what feels like a little psychedelic experimentation. All this adds a little diversity to the album and whilst it is not hugely original (what is?) there is a certain individuality in the way the songs are constructed and the use of the instrumentation.                
             The album kicks off with
Break My Heart Tonight, a terrific alt. country ballad with some nice guitar sounds, but the instrumentation feels a little too busy at times although the chiming guitar break is tremendous. The melody and vocals are as good as, and have similarities to, Whiskeytown era Ryan Adams. A really good atmospheric tale of confusion and heartbreak. Jesse James
and1905, are brilliant songs, as already alluded to, with the former having a gorgeous haunting mellow sound on an excellent steel guitar accompanied sad story song about the old wild western
  legend with again, a gorgeous melody and vocals. We all know by now how the story ends but it is a beautiful, memorable song.
1905 is a lesser known story, certainly in the UK, and is another tremendous and  haunting sad song. It benefits hugely from a much more sparse sound, with a gorgeous dobro and fiddle giving a lovely haunting feel to this true story of a murder (or suicide) that  subsequently led to an execution, making this one of the album highlights. Album closer Bobbie Jean has a nice chunky bass sound on a quirky song that is a little reminiscent of ‘XTC,’ and probably more indie than country, on a tale of college boy who meets a girl, falls in love and realizes you can’t hold on to a dream! The Road and Lake Placid are both lovely haunting ballads as is Great Update, with it’s nice chiming guitar sound although a little psychedelic experimentation starts to creep in two thirds of the way through.            
             All in all, an excellent album of warm, at times mellow, but always with a little edginess, alt. country, that without the slight concern about the production would have been awarded a higher rating and could possibly still do so with further listening! It’s one of those albums that will in all probability continue to grow on me. You can’t say that about very many recordings!

It's Only Rock and Roll Music Blog

Debonzo Brothers consists of Jeff and Keef Debonzo on vocals and guitars, and also drummer Chris Hibbard, Jay Shirley on keys and Jimmy Thompson on bass. They previously released the EP “Places”, and their debut album is rock solid and presents very melodic americana complete with great lyrics and well crafted melodies that really catch your attention.Both brothers sing on the album, which gives you that little piece of variation, making sure you never get tired of one recurring voice. Not that you would, they both have great voices.The band released the EP “Places” in 2010, where Joe Kwon from the Avett Brothers were one of the contributors. And recently, they released the reason I’m writing this article – the LP “One Damn Heart”. Members from American Aquarium are among the friends helping them out, and most noticeably Whit Wright kicks ass on the pedalsteel. You can judge the quality of a band by their pedalsteelplayer – and American Aquarium has got one of the best out there.

Oak City said goodbye to its summer-long concert series — aptly named Oak City 7 — with last night's last hoorah, featuring Paleface, Debonzo Brothers and Big Daddy Love on the main stage, with Hank Sinatra on the acoustic stage.

With seven biweekly shows running from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the series saw a slew of local and regional bands hit City Plaza gratis. Yes, free. Think Alive After Five (I know that was so five years ago), but with a fresh facelift.

Beyond paving the city's beat street, the loca-loving series also showcased a bounty of sustainable sips, nips and products — from the local beer bus to the food truck fodder to the House of Swank "919 Y'all" koozies and tees, and the Got to Be NC samples. "Seven shows, 28 bands, two stages, 15 local beers and local food," ever-so-aptly sports OC7's Facebook page.

For OC7's finale, midpoint hometown band the Debonzo Brothers arguably stole the show, both with their "varying degrees of twang" and "ruminative folk" and their quips: "Only one person in this entire plaza tonight admitted to being in love," they said as they took stage. … Maybe those of you in love looking for poetic justice can redeem Raleigh and represent in 2013.

But for the premiere 2012, 96.1 was a mainstay event-sponsor (the event is 100%-sponsor driven), sporting a tent, games and giveaways. This week, in conjunction with World of Beer, the radio-fav gave a chance to win a World of Beer basket, including a six-pack of beer, a $25 WOB gift cert and tee.

"We've come out to every Oak City 7 and basically tried to have something fun to do for the community when they come out, because it's free," said 96 Rock on-air personality Alli Morgan. "So we'll bring our cornhole board out, and we register [patrons] for different things, whether it's tickets or free beer (like we're doing tonight)… we always try to have something that's interactive."

Attendee Sarah Hunter enjoyed the outdoor series enough to become a repeat offender. "I really liked it," she said. "I thought it was a good use of the downtown space, and it kind of brought back the free downtown concert series that Raleigh had gotten rid of with Alive After Five. We actually went to every single [OC7] concert except for one, when it rained, and we really enjoyed it and enjoyed supporting North Carolina bands and beer and agriculture."

For this, the last of a set of sweltering summer Thursdays "in the 7," the nod to fall felt serendipitous, as temps continued to dip down in what feels much more like late September than late August in Raleigh. And the Plaza filled one final time with Triangle-ites (and many of their loyal pups) looking to pay summer its due and take in the tunes and the treats (the line at Tar Heel Creamery was a beast) of the local streets.

"I think the appeal of Oak City 7 is that it's cool for somebody after work who wants to relax on a Thursday," said Morgan. "It's not Friday, so it's not frantic. You can come down here and it's free; grab a beer and hang out. Music lovers — again, it's free and it's indie stuff, so different than you would normally randomly run into [at bigger venues] … and so you can come out here and enjoy music and it's gotta great atmosphere. I love downtown Raleigh, so I'm glad that they started doing this every other Thursday."

And as Raleigh-lovers, so are we.


Debonzo Brothers from Raleigh in North Carolina sent their new video “Break My Heart Tonight”. The song instantly hit all the right buttons in my head, and I had to hear their new album to see if it was just a one-off, or if they really had cracked the code to tickle my musical interest.

And let me tell you that “One Damn Heart” does not disappoint! Tens songs safely tucked into the landscape where you will find bands like American Aquarium, Sons of Bill, Drive-By Truckers, Jason Isbell, Son Volt and Whiskeytown.

Debonzo Brothers consists of Jeff and Keef Debonzo on vocals and guitars, and also drummer Chris Hibbard, Jay Shirley on keys and Jimmy Thompson on bass. They previously released the EP “Places”, and their debut album is rock solid and presents very melodic americana complete with great lyrics and well crafted melodies that really catch your attention.

Both brothers sing on the album, which gives you that little piece of variation, making sure you never get tired of one recurring voice. Not that you would, they both have great voices.

But most importantly, they write great lyrics. Several members of American Aquarium have at one point or another been involved with Debonzo Brothers. And gave them the push they needed when they suggested that the Debonzo Brothers share the bill with American Aquarium at a local show in Raleigh. Jeff and Keef got what I like to call the best inspiration there is; Last Minute Panic. They had to write enough songs to fill a set, and I’m guessing they felt the songs had to be good enough to present in front of their friends.

And they did it. With American Aquariums Bill Corbin on bass, Jeff and Keef Debonzo played a set that sounded so good they quickly started looking for new gigs. New members were recruited, some of which left and were replaced before the band found their current lineup during the recording of “One Damn Heart”.

The band released the EP “Places” in 2010, where Joe Kwon from the Avett Brothers were one of the contributors. And recently, they released the reason I’m writing this article – the LP “One Damn Heart”. Members from American Aquarium are among the friends helping them out, and most noticeably Whit Wright kicks ass on the pedalsteel. You can judge the quality of a band by their pedalsteelplayer – and American Aquarium has got one of the best out there.

Lyrically, “One Damn Heart” gives you stories of love, youth and growing up. But they also show us they are good storytellers and impress when doing historic storytelling. “Jesse James” is one such song, trying to put into words what James must have thought and felt while roaming around the old West.

«Disregard from the law
he just took what he saw
’til the day justice shot him down»

Another great example is !1905″. A fascinating tale of Chester Gillette and the murder on his lover Grace Brown. Not being american, the story was new to me – and I had to Google it. And it is a true story, about the rich son of a factory owner, and the factory worker Grace Brown – whom he had gotten pregnant before drowning her during a boating trip on a lake outside New York.

Even though it seems they are off by one year regarding the time of the incident, the song is great and the lyrics are intriguing – enough to make me hit Google to find out more. That doesn’t happen a lot while listening to music…

A good few of their songs have a flowing, dreamy mood in them – just asking to be enjoyed while relaxing in a hammock. Jay Shirleys work on the keys must take credit for that feeling. You sort of feel like you’re floating along on a could of lovely music and lyrics which are rewarding you for the time you spend and you can’t help yourself smiling at the thought of how lucky you are to have such wonderful music going through your ears and into your brain…

Debonzo Brothers finish of the album by giving us a quick insight into their roots, with the 90′s sounding powerpoppy “Bobbie Jean”. This could be the theme song to any american youth tv-series between 1989 and 2001.

Just take my word for it; if you like any of the bands I mentioned in the beginning of this article – you’ll enjoy Debonzo Brothers and “One Damn Heart”. Just go get it! On CDBaby, iTunes or Spotify.

Debonzo Brothers – One Damn Heart
Debonzo Brothers – The Road


Debonzo Brothers’ Official Site, Debonzo Brothers on Facebook, Debonzo Brothers on Spotify, Buy One Damn Heart




Debonzo Brothers: A Little Bit Indie, A Little Bit Americana

August 22, 2012

Fronted by Jeff and Keef Debonzo, Raleigh’s indie/Americana five-piece Debonzo Brothers often earns comparisons to The Wallflowers, but alt-country and Southern rock subtleties also shine through in their music. 

The band’s 2010 EP Places got a boost with contributions from Joe Kwon of the Avett Brothers and Grammy nominated Rick Keen on dobro, The debut LP One Damn Heart continues to push the Debonzo Bros.’ sound. We caught up with Jeff Debonzo to see what’s new with the band and find out his take on the local music scene.

How would you describe your sound?

Tough question, although it’s important to commit to something so listeners can find you. Early alt-country with the emphasis on heavy electric guitar sounds and organ makes up the majority of our material.

Even though I’ve never listened to much Wallflowers, that comparison is always there because of Keef’s rasp and Jay’s organ. If Americana is our major, our minor would be older school melodic indie rock like Belle and Sebastian, Yo La Tengo, Voxtrot and Piebald.

What do you like most about the music scene in Raleigh and what would you change?

Definitely the tight-knit communal feel is a big plus. Whether it’s lending gear, pulling together for a benefit or simply attending each others’ shows, people are very supportive of each other.

This scene isn’t limited to musicians, but especially the bartenders, venue owners and sound folks as well. I’m not sure I would change anything, except acknowledge the disparity between the media buzz around certain bands, regardless of show attendance, substance, etc. But even with this reality, it works because music fans have different reasons motivating them. Some are fans of the buzz, needing to be told what to like and some are color blind to it, paying respect to the art.

What are your favorite bars and clubs for live music?

Slim’s Downtown, next question… Ok, The Pour House has many fond memories too.

Where is the best late-night meal?

Snoopy’s. The Wake Forest Rd location was a short walk from our old place near Five Points. Double cheeseburger, two chili-dogs, fries and Diet Coke after an evening at Bickett Gallery was a good habit.

Where’s your go-to spot for new clothes?

My go-to would be Time After Time in Chapel Hill. They’ve come through many times, after time. A close second is Father and Son in Raleigh.

What is the best place for new or used musical instruments?

Most purchases are through Craigslist or word of mouth. Keef’s setup is always changing. Effects pedals are his own adult version of baseball cards. Harry’s Guitar Shop on Glenwood has always taken good care of us.

What’s Raleigh’s best kept secret?

24/7 Comedy Radio on 570 AM. The $2 beer special at Busy Bee, along with their Caesar with steak can’t be beat.

Where can we find you next?

The Station in Carrboro, Tuesday, August 7 at 9pm.

From Raleigh North Carolina then popped suddenly an email with the video "Break My Heart Tonight." The song is probably specially designed to press all the right buttons with me, so I threw myself over the plate with a large appetite.

And brothers Jeff and Keef Debonzo does not disappoint in "Damn One Heart." The album contains 10 tracks that are securely placed around American Aquarium, Sons of Bill, Jason Isbell, Drive By Truckers, and Whiskeytown.


Together with drummer Chris Hibbard, Jay Shirley on keyboards and Jimmy Thompson on bass then brothers Jeff and Keef Debonzo (both vocals and guitar) recorded a rock-solid and melodic Americana plate with good lyrics and a few exceptionally good tunes.

Jeff and Keef turns vocal responsibilities, making the disc retains a degree of variation in that you never get tired vocal voice. Not that there had been a problem for both of the two brothers have roast goose good voices.

And above all, in other words they write good lyrics. Several members of the American Aquarium has played with Debonzo Brothers on several occasions, and it was thus that American Aquarium kicked Debonzo Brothers really started. They suggested that the brothers were to warm up for them next time they played at home in Raleigh, which turned out to be just a couple of weeks yet. The brothers were making a round of what must be the best inspiration, last-minute panic. On a couple of weeks they wrote enough good songs to fill an entire set, and reinforced by Bill Corbin from American Aquarium on bass as they delivered a set that sounded so good that they immediately booked to new gigs.

In 2010 they released the EP "Places", where among other things, Joe Kwon from the Avett Brothers contributed. And recently they gave out the words "Damn One Heart", where several of the members of American Aquarium helps. Most presence is noticeable enough from the always eminent pedal steel guitarist Whit Wright.

The texts of Debonzo Brothers is all about youth, childhood and love. But they also prove that they are strong storyteller including the song "Jesse James". An honest attempt to put some words on the thoughts James may have had as he went around and robbed banks.

"Disregard from the law
he just took what he saw
'Til the day justice heaven shot down "

Another example is the sparkling "1905" which is a fascinating story of Chester Gillette, who killed his pregnant lover Grace Brown. In my eternal nerdedom I had, of course, Google histoire, which turns out to be true - even if they have missed by one year the time of the murder. Regardless of a strong and engaging text.

Several of the songs have a kind of dreamy atmosphere that just begs to be enjoyed in a hammock in a quiet moment. The organ Jay Shirley, much of the credit for that. You feel that it floats on a cloud of delicious music, and lyrics that actually gives you some dividends for the time spent, and one can not help but smile wondered to himself to be so lucky to have such wonderful music in the ears .

They also show that the roots of 90'talls rootsy power pop is present, the last song "Bobbie Jean". It could have been tittellåt to like about all U.S. adolescents ranges between 1989 and 2001.

I recommend this disc for the very strongly to anyone who likes rock solid Americana with great lyrics.

Purchased on CD or MP3 at CDBABY (highly recommended place to buy music anyway) or on iTunes.

This Coast Online Magazine

First Friday is typically known for its art walk, allowing patrons to take in works by local artists that may have been unknown previously and at other times, nationally renowned works by artists from all over the country.

With summer on the horizon comes Big Edʻs Summer Concert Series. Debonzo Brothers played their show that evening and introduced new fans to their upbeat, feel-good rock sound and drew in those familiar with their humorous, easygoing demeanor. Reminding Raleigh that they donʻt need to travel far to hear thriving local music, they performed their set with entrancing art practically serving as a backdrop to their Americana tunes.

With art offered by Visual Art Exchange and Artspace, there was plenty to see when the weather became too cool, and almost all of it was within earshot of the show should the need to see the band jam become paramount.

They started off with a few slower tracks such as “21″, giving one older couple in particular an opportunity to slow dance in the middle of the street, ignoring onlookers and photographers alike.

The band soon began to pick up speed as fans young and old sang and danced, seeming to keep the rain at bay as the band entertained the crowds. Joking between songs made the entire set feel more relaxed, as if the guys were playing a house show everyone was invited to. Tiny fans danced to the Debonzo Brothersʻ more upbeat tracks such as “College Town” and “Boombox” as their parents watched, amused by the opportunity for their children to embrace the cool rhythms the band gave off.

City Market soon lit up its streets, encouraging the Debonzo Brothers to continue. Rain, however, was a slight threat as the guys worried about the darkening sky overhead. Fans werenʻt content to end the night at 8:30pm though, as the breeze picked up and the looming clouds overhead teased passersby.

Unfortunately, the rain did begin coming down, and admittedly, that is when I took the opportunity to depart. Though I left the show early, the band was in its intermission which gave them a chance to meet and greet with friends and fans alike.

Raleigh Public Record Blog


This Coast Online Magazine

The Debonzo Brothers Band consist of Jeff Debonzo on vocals and guitar; Keef Debonzo  on vocals and guitar; Grant Emerson (Delta Rae) on bass; and Chris Hibbard on drums. Being a local [Raleigh] band, the men bring a taste of good olʻ fashioned indie rock to the table. Their vocal abilities are so smooth that you can easily fall into a habit of head-nodding without even realizing it. I really enjoy the sound of “Boombox”, which is available for preview here.

Needless to say, Iʻm very excited for this show. If you enjoy great rock ʻnʻ roll that just canʻt be beat then youʻre advised to attend this show.

Local Beat WKNC 88.1 FM

This Friday in Raleigh at Slim’s Downtown Distillery one of the newest bands from the Triangle is releasing their first recorded material.  The Debonzo Brothers are putting out their debut EP, Places, which was recorded earlier this year and finally completed just a little while ago.  You may think this was a quick process for a band that only played their first show last November, but all the members of the band (Keef & Jeff Debonzo, Grant Emerson, and Chris Hibbard) are all tried and true musicians from the area who have been playing live for quite a long time.

Places is getting it’s debut release right here in this blog with almost all of the tracks from the EP being leaked in the interview below.  We chatted about the history of the band and the different members, including both of the actual Debonzo Brothers and their non-Debonzo bandmates.  We explored the sound and recording process of the EP and also pumped up the show Friday.