Malpass Brothers to bring 'simple' traditional country music to Maryland Theatre
Country music has been around for many generations. Dating back to the early 1920s, the genre has seen changes in instrumentation and image with seasons defined by hillbilly, bluegrass, folk, gospel and honky tonk as well as periods of rockabilly, country pop, country rock and even country rap.
Just to skim the surface, there were pioneers like Jimmie Rodgers, “outlaws” like Waylon Jennings, pop artists such as Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, and Reba McEntire, leading to “bro-country” acts Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean.
Today, two young brothers who were born and raised in North Carolina are keeping alive the early sounds of rockabilly and honky tonk to which their grandfather endeared them via phonograph records, while also creating their own music. The Malpass Brothers will perform Friday, March 1 at 7:30 p.m. at The Maryland Theatre in a concert presented by the Hagerstown Community Concert Association. Christopher Malpass, 33, plays acoustic guitar and sings lead vocals while Taylor Malpass, 29, takes up electric guitar, mandolin as well as harmonies and some lead vocals.
“We play traditional country, like Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Hank Williams. It’s just more traditional country than anything else,” Chris Malpass said during a phone interview with a Herald-Mail reporter from his Goldsboro, N.C., home.
As young boys, the brothers spent a lot of time with their late paternal grandfather Robert Malpass, who liked to play guitar and sing.
“He introduced us to this music as kids. It’s just what we always did,” Malpass said. “He did it as a hobby, sort of around the house. He ran a little country store and he would sing and play up there at the country store.”
The Malpass Brothers toured with the late Don Helms, a former steel guitarist for Hank Williams, and opened on multiple tours for Merle Haggard, who passed away in 2016. They have shared bills with artists Ray Price, Willie Nelson, Rhonda Vincent and many others. Their original album, “Memory That Bad,” hit CMT Pure Country’s Top Ten with its title cut video. In December 2018, the brothers performed in Nashville, Tenn., at country music’s iconic Grand Ole Opry.
“The earliest thing we did was we played at a lot of churches, fairs, just about anything somebody would book us for, for a little bit of nothing,” Malpass said with a laugh. “Then it grew into what it is now. We just kind of worked our way up to what it is now.”
The act plays roughly 150 dates a year across the U.S. and has performed in Ireland, Scotland and Switzerland as well.
Part of the appeal of the traditional country style, Malpass said, is its purity.
“We usually have great crowds, a lot of people, some younger, some older folks,” he said. “It seems like a lot of younger folks are starting to discover older music because it’s so pure and so real.”
He added, “It’s not a lot of technology masking the vocal performance and all that. I think people are just craving real music.”
Malpass enjoys the connection that older people have with the music he performs, along with the interest of a younger crowd, as that group listening “means our music will continue to live on.”
“We do write a lot, and we add those songs into the show,” he said.
In addition to music steeped in the legacy of artists like Johnny Cash, The Louvin Brothers and Marty Robbins, the Malpass Brothers are known for their brotherly “ribbing” and banter and for a friendly vibe. It’s not unusual for them to go down into the house at a venue and ask the audience members what they would like to hear.
“We kind of joke around and cut up, tell jokes and keep it lighthearted,” Malpass said. “We just want people to come and enjoy themselves and even if they are not traditional country music fans, we hope they are before they leave.”
The simple themes of the music — love, heartache, working for a living — are relatable to most people, he said.
“I think that’s why the music has endured for so long. The world is too complicated now, there is too much going on,” Malpass said. “We kind of say, ‘Hey. Life is really pretty simple. We’ve just made it too complicated.’ I think we need to step back and realize a little bit how to enjoy the simple things of life. ”
Top photo: The Malpass Brothers – Christopher, left, and Taylor - will perform traditional country music Friday, March 1 at The Maryland Theatre. (Submitted photo)