In February, Cape Cod is gray and empty, supplanted in its off season, sitting equidistant from its summer residents’ Labor Day departure and Memorial Day arrival.
An angry ocean batters the coast, and shops sit idle, the once-bustling tourist towns now hibernating, and the region’s population slipping back to its roughly 200,000 full-time residents, compared to the 500,000 people that spill onto the neck of Massachusetts during the summer.
But to hear Benjamin Lee Paterson tell it, this Cape is the one worth seeing.
Paterson is the bearded, bespectacled front man of the Brothers Rye, an “outlaw jug band” based in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, a village of Falmouth in Barnstable Country, one of the Cape’s largest towns. Paterson and his band are among the full-time residents, as counted by the latest census, and on “Start It Up Again,” they give a look at their Cape, when the summer’s crowds flee, and the Rt. 6 traffic disappears, and the locals are left to themselves.
“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t easy to settle in,” Paternson sings in a scratchy, vaguely Appalachian warble on the song’s chorus. “Pass the whiskey ‘round, and wait for the snowbanks to melt down, and start it up again.”
With scant instrumentation built on Paterson’s banjo and Jeni Lyn Gardner’s mandolin lead, “Start It Up Again’s” lyrics shine, as the songs drips with masterful imagery that speaks in volumes, giving a snapshot of Cape Cod—or any storied vacation spot, for that matter—in all its noir, seasonal glory. Alongside the song’s yet-melted snowbanks, there are ferryboats rolling out, then back in again, winds that are (like Patterson) high, and soulful songs cutting through an FM radio, marking the passage of time.
To open his third verse, Paterson nails the picture of the offseason—“Half the homes and half the bars are shut down, phones are ringing but no one’s answering now”—but as a singular takeaway, it’s the song’s opening lines that stand as its most impressive.
“From where I stand I can see the whole town drinking deep, like a breath you take before you fall asleep/Like a letter that cuts you down, but you still keep, in a drawer, as a reminder of the spring.”
Despite the mastery displayed on “Start It Up Again,” the Brothers Rye remain a mystery: the song comes from 2013’s six-song LP The Down Low, their singular release to date. Per their website (which hasn’t been updated in over a year), an album was promised for 2014, but that never came, so anyone looking for more of the Brothers will quickly find a dead end.
“Start It Up Again” will have to sustain the appetite, but luckily, it can—and if this remains Paterson’s singular musical offering to the world, then it was well made, and the man should be proud.
WATCH: “START IT UP AGAIN” BY THE BROTHERS RYE
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