Worth noting: Asheville based roots/rock band Rafe Hollister does not take its name from the from the front man. Or, from that matter, any of the group’s six members: Vocals/guitarist/harmonica player Sam Brinkley, fiddler Jeff Mendenhall, guitarist/vocalist Brooks Butler, bassist Joseph Massie, drummer Vince Seabrook and mandolinist Mark Moser. (Actually, Rafe Hollister was a character on The Andy Griffith Show, a “golden-voiced—but wardrobe-challenged—farmer.”) And yet the band is referred to as an individual — an entity formed from the sum of its parts. “Their own unique sound that they call Mountain Rock, describing their use of traditional bluegrass instruments to create Rafe’s brand of roots music,” says the band’s Web site.
The band’s most recent album, Stimulus Package is distinctly country, with all the locomotion and forward thrust of a steam engine climbing Saluda grade. In fact, some of the offerings come off like work songs in the tradition of “John Henry.” “Don’t Cry,” with its brisk pulse and fiery fiddle fits that bill; “Nothing Like Me” has a similar spirit, but Sam Brinkley’s vocals — part snarl, part rumble — lend a bad ass Southern rock feel to not just that track, but the entire CD.
Themes range from daily life and love to Southern swagger (“I head into town, get a little rough, hold me down, that’s enough,” says “High on the Hog”) and hard times. But no matter the subject, Rafe Hollister handles these themes (admittedly time-tested and familiar) with fresh energy and a certain unspoiled charm. With the bluegrass influences, rock chops, whip-smart musicianship and judicious — if cocky — lyrics, Rafe Hollister seems poised for regional recognition.
Rafe Hollister opens for The Hurt Mountain Boys at Stella Blue on Friday, March 19. Read about that show here. Visit http://www.rafehollister.com for more information.
The Drone, the new album by Asheville’s The Leigh Glass Band, is anything but drone. Glass cuts an apt figure as a front woman, approaching her material with all the energy and vocal strength of local funk songstress Laura Reed. Glass’ sound is reminiscent of Alannah Myles (she of “Black Velvet” fame) but updated for 2010; approachable as Carrie Underwood — only without the cutesy trappings.
Lead track “Resurrection” opens with an achingly lovely guitar riff. The richness of the music begs to be listened to through headphones for maximum effect — everything from tasteful percussion to nimble, steady bass is perfectly balanced. Glass makes the most of her dusky voice on “Radio,” a slow and sweetly nostalgic number that would be at home in an Ashley Judd film. “Mr. Thunderjeans” demands attention, first for the clicking, jazzy percussion, then for the “doo-wop-wop” backup vocal and Glass’s sassy lyrics: “Straw hat, clam diggers, bare feet in the sand. After fishing in Bermuda he made moonlight at night.”
While The Drone gives a first impression of a polished country album, in truth there are myriad complexities, from some fierce harmonica on “Ivy Curtain” to some deliciously spooky production on “Indigo Night.” Backed by a trio of sought-after musicians (Bryan White on bass, Patrick Wells on drums and Rich Hendrix on guitar), Glass also enlisted other area artists for the recording. Listen for the contributions of Joshua Singleton, Laura Blackley, Peggy Ratusz, Andrea Ward, Dwayne Dodson, Robert DiMaio and Jeff Zentner.
Check out the CD release party for The Drone at French Broad Brewery (101 Fairview Rd., Asheville, 277-0222). 6 p.m., tips. Visit http://www.myspace.com/leighglassmusic to learn more.
—Alli Marshall, A&E reporter