Soundtrack

It's a well-documented fact at this juncture: Asheville's sound is a melting pot, a smorgasbord, a sonic gumbo. But just in case you needed further proof, this week's roundup — pulled at random from a stack of submitted CDs — turns up rock, Americana, world/spiritual, bluegrass and jazz guitar.  Consider it potluck listening.

Shed by Paul Edelman
"The best dog I ever had was my own heart," sings Americana rocker Paul Edelman on his twangy, gritty, rockin'-like-Bon Jovi-but-not-cheesy track "Bristol to Bridesburgh." While Edelman's 10-song disc is unpolished, its rough edges are its charm. A little bit country, a little bit rock n' roll, Edelman makes short work of simple but effective lyrics, driving percussion, searing guitars and hooky melodies. This is the soundtrack to chilly winter nights huddled in steamy bars; or long drives in a muscle car, the road partially obscured by frosty windows. Hints of Springsteen and Mellencamp are balanced with Edelman's original sound: an imperfect but comfortable voice and addictive, narrative songs. Paul Edelman performs at the Town Pump in Black Mountain on Saturday, Dec. 12, 8 p.m. myspace.com/janglingsparrows.

Island Diplomacy by If You Wannas
Asheville's Ifs described their latest full-length album as "The Velvet Underground meets Hank Williams." Disparate as those influences seem, the Ifs take the sound farther into the territory of odd pairings, experimentation and raw, street-inspired musicianship. The band's raucous, punk-spirited live show somehow translates to disc: Lo-fi recording lends a warm, intimate sound. Fuzzy guitars align with tightly crafted lyrics; vintage organ meets rock rhythms. It's frayed around the edged yet masterfully constructed from the Elvis Costello-reminiscent alt-pop of intro track "Halo Spit." Songs are at once ironic and sweet, dark and beguiling; closing track "Oh Doctor" with the hooky-spooky refrain, "That's the way I like it," makes great use of this dichotomy. ifyouwannas.com.

Where Heaven Meets the Earth by Kristin Luna Ray
Fans of River Guerguerian, Free Planet Radio and Arundas will find a kindred spirit in Kristin Luna Ray, whose new album incorporates many of the musicians from these groups. Ray's sound fuses elements of world beat (harmonium, sarod, congas and kanun) with aspects of spirituality (songs include "Alleluiah" and "Open to Grace"; the CD case features images of spiritual leaders like Neem Karoli Baba, The Dali Lama and Mother Teresa). But Ray's music is not so heady as to lose the casual listener. Sweet, positive-message lyrics and easy, flowing soundscapes make this an accessible album with wide appeal. kristinray.com.

Green Pastures by Redeye Ramblers
While the Redeye Ramblers never veer from the bluegrass path, the band's presentation of the unadulterated genre is so pitch-perfect and flawless that it's hard to want for anything more. Green Pastures is a dozen painstakingly selected tracks, including folk classics ("Man of Constant Sorrow") gospel tunes ("Driftin' Too Far From The Shore") and mountain themes ("Blue Ridge Cabin Home"). Each instrument rings clear — even during a guitar solo the quiet chucking of mandolin in the background is perfectly audible. Fiddler Lori Little Peek contributes dulcet vocals on several songs, making these tracks fast favorites. redeyeramblers.com.

(Why We're) Happy Together by Mark Guest
In an unofficial poll, men found Guest's post-coital Barbie and Ken album cover to be clever while women found it to be creepy. Dare to venture past that attention-grabbing image: The sounds inside are fabulously sleek and stylish. Guest plays jazz guitar with the supple aplomb of Fred Astaire, mid-tango. On Together, Guest's is joined by the likes of Ian Bracchitta (who lends a mean bass solo to "There Is No Greater Love") and Frank Southecorvo (whose crisp, lilting sax dynamizes Guest's original composition, "Mardis Bossa"). Anyone who's heard Guest live (he often plays for the dinner crowds at area restaurants) knows the musician is a master of every genre; Together could well be a collection of his greatest hits. myspace.com/markguest.

Holding Space by Robert Thomas
Play Arden-based musician Robert Thomas' latest CD on iTunes and the program classifies the music as "New Age." This label works — it's soothing, atmospheric and often spiritual in theme — but there's also more to Thomas' compositions. Instrumentals are flavored with jazz piano; some tracks feature world-beat sounds (electric sitar on "Mountains," doumbek on "Marhaba") and Thomas' vocal numbers a deeply personal and sentimental (listen to "Two Daughters"). Three of the dozen tracks reference dancing and, indeed, Holding Space has the sweeping, swirling musicianship perfect for a breezy, interpretive turn on the dance floor. myspace.com/robertthomaspianosongs.

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts writer and editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs.

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