Most people would agree that there’s nothing stronger, more durable and occasionally, even more volatile, than the bond between brothers. And when that bond includes the common goal of making music, the results often offer reason for an audience to sit up and take notice. There have been any number of examples in music’s modern era — the Everly Brothers, the Beach Boys, the Kinks and Oasis to name but a few. Not that it’s easy or even agreeable, but there is common cause, and that’s generally enough to ensure there’s passion and purpose in its creation.

 

Just as the Bacon Brothers. Fiercely devoted to making music, even from an early age (they cite such influences as the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Motown, Led Zeppelin, Philly soul, and James Taylor, with mentions from Michael of Pete Seeger, Jimmy Rogers, Chet Atkins, and the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, and additional kudos to Michael from Kevin for his input), the two siblings share a singular body of work that’s found them spending more than 20 years of working the road and paying their dues, resulting in seven albums — Forosoco (1997), Getting There (1999), Can’t Complain (2001), Live: The No Food Jokes Tour (2003), White Knuckles (2005), New Year’s Day (2009), Philadelphia Road (2011) and 36 Cents (2014) — spanning rock, soul, folk and Americana. Never content to be typecast, they’re fiercely devoted themselves to the cause of making music, undeterred by fame, fortune or the pitfalls that frequently obstruct the path to success.

Now, following on the heels of last year’s “Driver,” a resilient tale of lost youth imbued with tender memories, the Bacon Brothers’ new single “Broken Glass” also echoes that personal resolve. Written by Kevin and recorded at Lehman College studio where Michael teaches, the song was co-produced by both Bacon brothers. “It’s a very personal song,” Kevin says of its reflective musings. “I think that the songs are strong when they are personal. It took a long time. Some come easy, some not. But I’m proud of it and very happy with what Mike and the guys brought to the mix.” That song will be followed by Michael’s composition “Two Rivers,” a tender reflective ballad recorded during the Lehman sessions.

It’s not that either brother lacks the means to steal the spotlight. Kevin Bacon is an award-winning actor with 80 films and dozens of television and stage credits to his name, resulting in numerous Emmy and Screen Actor’s Guild nominations cited in his resume. Older brother Michael initially began making music in their native Philadelphia before moving to Nashville where his songwriting career blossomed by leaps and bounds. An Emmy-winning composer, he most recently scored the documentary “That Way Madness Lies” currently on the festival circuit. Other recent works include the audiobook: “You Don’t Look Your Age…And Other Fairytales” and the HBO documentary “Underfire: The Untold Story of Private First Class Tony Vaccaro.”

Still, while it’s clear that Michael and Kevin don’t view the band as simply a sideline, their commitment is clear. Indeed, the high points have been many. Kevin points to an opening slot for The Band at Carnegie Hall, surveying the Texas landscape in the midst of a lightning storm, rocking the Stone Pony on the Jersey Shore and Cains Ballroom in Tulsa. For Michael, it’s been all about touring in Germany and Japan, and the fascination he feels performing for overseas audiences.

So while casual observers may be awed by their Hollywood credentials, critics have been quick to note that the brothers -Michael on vocals, guitar and cello and Kevin on vocals, guitar and percussion — along with the band that’s been with them since the beginning — Paul Guzzone (bass, backing vocals), Joe Mennonna (keyboards, accordion), Ira Siegel (lead guitar, mandolin and backing vocals) and Frank Vilardi (drums) — eschew any hint of glitz and glamour in favor of an ethic gleaned from the hard lessons that come as a result of determination and drive.

Long before Kevin Bacon launched his prolific stage and screen career, and before Michael Bacon became known as a go-to composer for film and television, they were just two brothers, born nine years apart, coming of age in Center City Philadelphia. By the late 1960s, Michael, already a professional musician, would gig with his band at the city’s famed Electric Factory with a young Kevin tagging along when he could.

It’s a time preserved in the cover art for The Bacon Brothers’ latest, New Year’s Day, with a preteen Kevin singing alongside a mandolin-strumming Michael. The record, laden with the brothers’ trademark gritty rock and a touch of Philly soul, hearkens back to those roots in the City of Brotherly Love, when life was less complicated and music filled the air.

“My earliest memory of music was what my brother was playing or the music he brought home,” Kevin Bacon recalls. “I would sit on the steps of our basement while he was downstairs practicing with our sister, Hilda, and their band. So my heroes growing up were all rock ’n’ rollers. I wasn’t really into sports, or even movies. If I could save money I’d buy an album.”

With 2009 marking 14 years of the Bacon Brothers band’s existence, any cynical preconceptions about well-known actors “dabbling” in music now can safely be discarded. The band has gigged relentlessly to build up a following, and New Year’s Day represents their sixth LP release. Along the way, the younger brother has apparently caught up with his elder sibling in some ways.

“Kevin writes a lot more songs than I do,” Michael says. “While I spend a lot of time writing instrumental music, lyrical songs are tougher: if I write one or two a year that I like, then I’m happy. But Kevin has this amazing gift of turning everyday experiences into universal thoughts that everybody can identify with.”

The album kicks off with “New Year’s Day,” a song that, while it draws upon Kevin’s experiences, isn’t necessarily about him. “‘New Years Day’ is from the perspective of a kid, 18 or 19, who’s left Philadelphia for Los Angeles to pursue his dream of stardom, but is pining to get back to Philly for the Mummers Parade,” says Kevin, who has attended Philadelphia’s elaborate New Year’s celebration many times. “L.A. is the land of the endless summer, and everything is so beautiful. But there’s something still inherent in me that’s left over from Philadelphia, which is cold and provincial, but in a great way.”

“There have been a lot of times in my life that I’ve thought about our hometown and going back there and not going after these outrageous kinds of goals,” Michael adds. “Maybe it’s not personal to Kevin, but I still relate very heavily to that song.”

The infectious second track, “Go My Way” with its laid-back, shuffling soulful groove, is also written from a character’s perspective. “It’s a guy who’s younger than me, single and living alone in New York, not doing very well and struggling with his life,” Kevin observes. “Then this one woman keeps popping up in his life and elevates his sorry existence for a time.”

Having played with the same crew of musicians for all of the band’s existence, Michael and Kevin agree that the band has become just as much a part of the whole endeavor as the two frontmen. “With New Year’s Day, the guys in the band produced a couple of tracks each,” Michael points out. “We gave the band much more creative responsibility for the product we ended up with. I think that’s why it sounds more like a band album.”

While still encountering critics due to Kevin’s onscreen notoriety, the band continues to win believers—show by show, album by album. As The New Yorker recently observed: “Hollywood hangs like an albatross around the neck of any movie star turned musician, but this duo shakes off the burden of fame with sharply executed rock that has a blue-collar, rootsy edge.”

“I like risks,” notes Kevin, a classic understatement from an artist who’s played challenging, unsympathetic roles in everything from The Woodsman to Sleepers to Oliver Stone’s JFK. “And there’s nothing more risky about being a well known actor and playing in a rock band.”

But there’s the interesting thing about risks—sometimes they pay off. And for The Bacon Brothers, they certainly have.