Nodding to the future as much as the past, the Brothers also enlist a bevy of babes to inject more flavor into the set. Miho Hatori, of Cibo Matto and Gorillaz fame, breaks into a rap in the jazzy "Dream Girl," Angie Hart, of Frente!, contributes an incredibly fragile, clear-eyed vocal to "Deep Down" and Geri Soriano Lightwood from Supreme Beings of Leisure adds polished soul to the gossamer, twitching "Ether." The Brothers do make room for one guy -- underground hip-hop lyricist Barron Ricks (who's thrown it down with Prince Paul, Cypress Hill and DJ Hurricane) checks in on "Urban Tumbleweed."
The Baldwin Brothers began more than fifteen years ago, when Jason and TJ met in junior high in Kokomo, Indiana. The son of a musician, Jason was already playing guitar and bass, and was soon to add drums to his repertoire; he discovered TJ played piano (he had been taking lessons since age six) and invited him over to jam. In the Hinkle family's basement there was a treasure trove of recording gear ("It was a playground," says TJ, "There was a reel-to-reel recorder, a drum machine, and lots of toys and effects"), so in no time the pair were experimenting with the equipment and taping their results. They continued to record all through high school, between stints in pop and alternative rock bands (TJ) and a heavy metal cover act (Jason, who still reckons he's "The Jimmy Page of the drums -- technically sloppy but very soulful.").
Fast-forward to the mid-nineties, when, post-college, the two met up in Chicago. Although they'd spent nearly a decade apart, the pair started writing and recording again, just for fun. When they had enough material for a 30-minute set, they approached a local club and convinced its managers to let them play live. Calling themselves the Baldwin Brothers, they delivered a mixture of lounge music and funk, with TJ's trusty 1978 Fender Rhodes electric piano emerging as the star of the show. (It's the keyboard of the '70s," he explains. "Billy Joel, Elton John ... just a ton of musicians used a Rhodes. It's the best.")