Three new CDs by three very different bands (country-rock, Southern Gothic, jam-rock) prove (as if there was every any question) that the Asheville music scene remains as eclectic as ever.
Joshua Singleton's self-titled CD
Recorded at Asheville's Landslide Studio as well as studios in Jackson and Franklin, Tenn., singer/songwriter Joshua Singleton's self-titled disc has a surprising amount of Nashville in its sound. Not Grand Ole Opry Nashville, mind you, but the new, edgy, country rock Nashville. Singleton seamlessly pairs electric guitar with Dobro and shimmery cymbals with lap steel, but from lead track, "Take Me To the Water," there's not a hint of twang to be found. Singleton's sound is invested in the rock end of country rock, his swagger fully intact. In "Another Sunday Morning" he sings, "She'll pour me a drink and I'll sing her a song and we'll string each other along, like some Cinderella fairy tale gone wrong." There's an allusion to Bon Jovi in his big-haired heyday, but with more compelling lyrics. And Singleton has the good sense to balance his bad-boy rockers with bad-boy ballads: "Smoking Cigarettes," an updated nod to Bryan Adams, "Falling Down," an aching-yet-swinging slow dance that Keith Urban would be lucky to cover.
The Dying Days of Summer by Jeff Zentner
This, the second solo album by local singer/songwriter Jeff Zentner (also the front man for Tennessee-based Creech Holler), hits its stride at the second line of the opening track. There, backup vocalist Josie Little adds her angelic voice to Zenter's own wispy-hushed singing. The 14-song disc is country — but only in the barest sense. Minor keys, 3/4 time signatures, haunting fiddle strains and the malevolent plucking of a banjo here and there underscore Zentner's Emo-poetic lyrics. "I've always loved summer's dying days / I've always been that kind," he sings on the title track. Guest artists include Zentner's wife, Sara, on piano; Matt Bauer (who has also performed with Jolie Holland) on banjo; and katiejane garside, who lends vocals to the eerie, Kate Bush-reminiscent "Where We Fall We'll Lie." The overall effect — a somnolent, Southern Gothic soundscape — casts sweetly tattered imagery against a velvet-dark backdrop of exquisitely minimalist instrumentation.
Genus Thylacinus by MarsupiaL
The eight-song collection, released this year by perennial Asheville rock band MarsupiaL veers wildly from the bouncy, pedal steel-infused, Grateful Dead-esque "In Between" to the thrashing guitars, crashing percussion and general hardcore mayhem of "Sucker Punch." The easy answer to the schizophrenic feel of Genus Thylacinus is that the band's four members take turns writing the songs Still, even the compositions of individual musicians are disparate: Drummer/guitarist Chris Carter wrote both the groovy-if-melancholic opener, "Lead On," as well as the fuzzy, churning "Naked in the Hall of Seduction." Guitarist Ian Reardon composed jazz-jam "The Tide," which bubbles through tasteful cymbal rolls and reverb. His slower "The Man Who Knows Things" pairs Allman Brothers flavor with modern percussion. The disc's final track, "There Is A Better World," is perhaps its most gentle. Vocal harmonies and Smith's excellent pedal steel earn the lush (if heartbreaking) song single status.