BENSALEM, Pa. — Shattering modern conventions in the land of the cover band, the Sherwood Brothers are taking the music scene by storm with their fresh interpretations of multiple musical genres. Having played various musical instruments since they were teenagers, growing up in the rural countryside of Gillett, PA, brothers Darryl and Dennis Sherwood took to dabbling in various musical styles from classic rock to country, bluegrass to heavy metal, singer-songwriter to alternative and grunge.
“Our parents were huge music fans,” says younger brother Darryl. “Our dad listened to lots of old time country, like Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, George Jones, Elvis Presley and our mom listened to Rod Stewart, The Bee Gees, and The Rolling Stones. There was everything from bluegrass to Top 40 rock on in our house.”
Growing up in such a musically diverse household, one can plainly see how Darryl, and older brother Dennis, became “a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll.” Their exposure to multiple genres served to attune both boys’ interests and aspirations during their most formative and influential years. Soon the eighties followed, bringing new influences such as Motley Crue, Slayer, and Metallica.
In seeking to hone his growing vocal and guitar abilities, Darryl found himself gravitating to the grungy nuance of Chris Cornell, of Soundgarden, and Dennis to the lyrical intensity of U2.
“I am moved by a good melody,” says Darryl. “Someday Never Comes and Long as I Can See the Light by Creedence Clearwater Revival are probably my favorite songs to this day. I remember when I first heard John Fogerty’s voice, I thought to myself, ‘Man I wish I could sing like that.’”
Dennis adds, “I’m a huge U2 fan, particularly of their late 80’s and early 90’s material. I think they’ve always been able to pull off songs that have a ton of emotional weight, while still maintaining pop appeal. That’s a difficult line to tow. I think that they might be the best band at pulling that off.”
After various stints in numerous bands, both cover and original, over the years, the Sherwood Brothers honed their vocal and instrumental prowess, and went on to write and record their own original music, producing their first original album entitled, This Don’t End With a Smile in 2013.
“About nine years ago, our father passed away,” Dennis says. “We took a lot of that loss and grief – which anyone who has been there knows – and channeled that emotion. “Losing someone that is such a big part of your world really shapes who you are. We took a lot of those raw feelings and put them into lyrics and melodies and original songs.”
With regard to the collaborative process, Darryl credits his brother Dennis with the ability to pick up what he lays down. “I’ll start with a melody idea and some words that make no sense together,” says Darryl, “I’ll either play it for Dennis or send him a rough recorded idea. He usually kicks back some lyrics and we start piecing it together.”
Those original songs are now woven into their acoustic tribute act, which pays homage to the artists of yesteryear – a la MTV’s Unplugged. Often billed as a “cover band” at various venues across New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and New York, the Sherwood Brothers are quickly managing to shatter that perception. With a full stage production that includes drums, bass, guitars, mandolin and highly stylized vocal harmonies, their tribute act defies the typical conventions surrounding what an acoustic performance even means. Whether delivering a more traditionally tender interpretation of Neil Young’s Harvest Moon, or busting out unexpected surprises like Synchronicity II by the Police or Spirit of the Radio by Rush, the Sherwood Brothers manage to blow away any and all preconceived notions of what an acoustic band can do and be.
“Usually, when people hear the word ‘acoustic’ they tend to think of a solo performer or duo sitting on barstools,” says Darryl. “We don’t do Brown Eyed Girl and your typical acoustic standards.”
In 2005, the Sherwood Brothers partnered with friend and like-minded musician, Neal Petti, music instructor, enthusiast and honorary Sherwood brother. An experienced studio and touring musician, Petti brings with him strong backup harmonies as well as a multi-instrument proficiency on upright bass, acoustic guitars, lap steel, dobro, and mandolin.
“The three of us make up the core structure of the Sherwood Brothers,” says Darryl. “We have some outstanding musicians participate in our performances including Ken Harmer, who is an amazing lead guitarist that adds those extra tasty touches you don’t think of and absolutely shreds on acoustic guitar. We are fortunate to have Johnny Dee (Doro and Britny Fox) on drums and percussion. He’s a terrific, experienced player with deep roots in the Philly music community. When Johnny Dee is out on tour, we have two great players, Paul Bagnell and Drew Mitchell, who jump in and do a hell of a job. Plus Ed Paone filling in on bass from time to time when needed.”
The result is an infectious vibe whereby the Sherwood Brothers effectively transfer a kinetic energy likened to a veritable jumper cable at live shows. Their high-energy show is powered by pure adrenaline and technical proficiency, paying respect to those who have gone before them.
As featured in Out on the Town Entertainment Guide, June/July 2015