A lifetime of harmony

The Guthrie Brothers recreate a Simon and Garfunkel experience at Bristol Riverside Theatre July 26–30

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

When music lovers reflect on the 60s in the United States, more often than not one thing comes to mind — the British Invasion. From overseas came the matching suits and boyish charm of The Beatles along with the angsty Rolling Stones that made parents cringe while their daughters swooned.

Among the craze, a quieter musical movement was taking shape in the form of folk rock duo Simon and Garfunkel. From July 26–30, experience classics like “The Sound of Silence” and “Mrs. Robinson” at Bristol Riverside Theatre with the special Scarborough Fair: A Tribute to Simon & Garfunkel presented by musical siblings the Guthrie Brothers.

In perfect sync: The first time the brothers heard a Simon and Garfunkel song, they had a spiritual connection to it as their harmonizing vocals blended perfectly into the duo’s sound. Photo: The Guthrie Brothers

Throughout their musical career Jeb and Jock Guthrie always felt a kinship to Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, though the creation of a full tribute show was unprecedented. It all started at an average Guthrie Brothers gig a few years ago. Among their original, more rock sounding tracks, the brothers decided to mix in Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer” for fun. Immediately, they received the best response they’d gotten all night.

Their harmonizing vocals lent themselves naturally to the song, and they knew they had to learn more from the duo’s catalog. At that point, almost no other band was doing any sort of tribute to them, so the timing was perfect.

“We knew the first time we heard a Simon and Garfunkel song that we had an almost spiritual connection to it,” Jock said. “Our voices blended effortlessly into that S&G signature sound, and since our first performance we have worked to perfect our tribute to these two amazing artists.”

When creating their tribute show, the Guthrie Brothers wanted the music to be as authentic as possible. Working tirelessly, they studied every minute detail of Simon and Garfunkel to discover everything that made the band tick. According to the brothers, an artist can easily learn a song and perform it. But to flawlessly replicate it, they must study the phrasing, musical arrangements and harmonies to fully capture the essence of the song.

During the Bristol Riverside Theatre performance, audiences can relive their favorite Simon and Garfunkel songs and get reacquainted with ones they may have loved but forgotten. In addition to the spot-on performances, Jeb and Jock take audiences beyond the music. In between songs, they interact with each other and the crowd to get everyone warmed up, all while giving tidbits on Simon and Garfunkel’s relationship.

After the show, the brothers can usually be found by the merchandise table for anyone who wishes to meet them. According to Jock, there have been such great turnouts that venues ask them to stop the meet-and-greet because they need to lock up.

“They end up feeling like they know us,” Jock said of their audiences.

The Guthrie Brothers have an infectious, lighthearted persona on stage, which comes from a lifetime of performing together. Growing up in Wisconsin with several other siblings, their mother was adamant they all respect each other. That idea stuck over the years, and the brothers stayed best friends as they embarked on their musical career.

Though only one year apart, Jeb and Jock’s personalities, skills and musical abilities complement rather than compete with each other.

“We fit like a puzzle piece instead of butting heads,” Jeb said.

Throughout their lengthy career, the brothers were part of various bands that came close to having record deals, but always fell short. Finally deciding to embrace their brotherly bond, they took matters into their own hands, landed a record deal and released the self-titled album The Guthrie Brothers. Drawing inspiration from the Eagles and Everly Brothers, the sound of the album is less folky than Simon and Garfunkel, but still highlights their unmatched harmonies.

For Jeb and Jock, it’s all about having their cake and eating it too. They’re able to tour the country and get their name out there with the tribute show, while still embracing their own artistry with original music.

Performances of Scarborough Fair: A Tribute to Simon & Garfunkel are Wednesday, July 26 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday, July 27 at 7:30 p.m., Friday, July 28 at 8 p.m., Saturday, July 29 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday, July 30 at 3 p.m. Tickets starting at $30 are available by visiting brtstage.org or calling the BRT Box Office at 215–785–0100. Bristol Riverside Theatre is located at 120 Radcliffe St. in Bristol.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com.