High-spirited roots instrumentation, cathartic lyrics, light-hearted mountain tales and one rogue jab at an ex’s body type make the experience of listening to Tellico’s Relics and Roses feel very much like perusing the spectrum of another’s personality — a quirky yet authentic 45-minute date.
Vocalists Anya Hinkle (guitar, fiddle) and Greg Stiglets (bass, harmonica) alternate songwriting duties, with Hinkle credited for most of the album’s odd tracks and Stiglets most evens. Their contrasting songwriting styles are a likely source of the collection’s engaging, grab-bag pace.
Hinkle, an unceasingly genuine singer, opens with a brisk number. Overflowing with expressive violin and a refrain that’s as catchy as it is pertinent — “Hey, where did your daddy go wrong?” she sings on repeat, invoking images of an increasingly distant mate — “Backstep Blues” showcases the artist’s fiddling prowess and sturdy voice while alluding to strong Southern roots.
Slowing to a strum for “Forsaken Winds,” Hinkle sings over a simple acoustic track, “You said you had a dream / I said I needed a little time on my hands … I just want to sing / but I don’t want no harmony, man.”
The self-sufficient lyrics make you wonder whether the song’s mournful tone is directed inward or offered as a mark of respect for those unsung harmonies willingly left behind. Either way, it’s as heavy and calm as the sedation that follows a thorough cry — certainly the record’s emotional low point, but a definite high for its evocativeness.
But while Hinkle sounds most beautiful at her darkest — a blessing and curse for many creatives — Stiglets shines punctuating the album with comic relief, particularly during “Lean into It.”
His lyrical handiwork recalls a lingering ex, who, due to a tricky door or her own will, just won’t leave. The song’s intentionally patronizing offers to help expedite her departure proved to be crowd pleasers at the band’s recent CD release show at Isis Restaurant & Music Hall.
“Bring me a map, and I’mma draw you a line,” he sang, inciting laughter throughout the packed venue. “Don’t you mistake me for a man who cares / I don’t love you no more, woman / I ain’t puttin’ me on no airs.” Still, Stiglets bears a more vulnerable, searching side elsewhere on the album.
Although it’s true that technical proficiency and discretion don’t always play well together, the selfless musicianship and delicate mix on Relics and Roses convey a sincere respect for the ear. Aaron Balance’s lap and pedal steel guitar playing is indispensable without being overpowering, and Jed Willis’ mandolin intricacies dance patiently beneath the surface rather than crescendoing into the spotlight. It’s that sense of cooperativeness and the open-book lyrics that infuse the album with honesty, making it a true keeper.
Relics and Roses was recorded in Asheville at Sound Temple Studios and Hollow Reed Studios with Chris Rosser mixing and engineering. Jon Stickley, who produced the album, also contributes drums and guitar on several tracks. Check out the band, including upcoming shows, at tellicoband.com.