Eliza Lynn, Frisky or Fair (Civility Records): Four Stars
• Genre(s): Singer/songwriter with elements of jazz, old time and western swing.
• You’ll like it if: You’re comfortable with metro jazz and rural Appalachia residing on the same album.
• Defining song: “Slow Down” – Soulful to the point of tasting collards, this sparse number asks listeners to disregard the hasty life. However, the rapid desire to hit repeat will overwhelm.
I usually fear an album that hits me from the get-go. Past experiences with songs that impress immediately end up being like a piece of gum with a two-minute flavor time. Luckily, Eliza Lynn’s debut album, Frisky or Fair, remained gratifying despite chronic listens. From the second the album starts, Lynn’s voice takes control. The first cut, “Not 10 Miles,” recalls the sort of ‘30s hipcat jazz that thrived in Harlem. By the time the third song – the traditional “Tunnel” – begins, it’s apparent that Lynn’s voice has more range than the Andes. She also plays banjo on some of the tunes, her silky voice melding beautifully with the instrument’s huskiness.
Produced independently, Frisky or Fair housed 13 musicians who helped Lynn bring her music to light. Guests include old time sage John Hermann, members of Toubab Krewe, and Freight Hoppers alum Rayna Gellert.
Fifth House at the Emerald Lounge, Friday, Jan. 27: Three Stars
• Genre(s): Funk, rock, soul.
• Be glad you stayed home if: You’re a sardonic shoegazer who enjoys bands that encourage audience lifelessness.
• Defining moment: “Shape I’m In” and “Put You Down”—While Fifth House is reputably steeped in the covers format (in this case, The Band’s ode to destitution), songs like the soul-kissed original “Put You Down” demonstrate a band embracing their own identity.
Asheville-based quartet Fifth House has taken the misunderstood term “jam” (assailed by opponents as the corruptor of cohesion) and given it some fashion tips. Bassist Rob Heyer (who studied with Grammy winner Eliot Wadopian at UNCA) employs a sinister feel to his instrument, laying a dark-groove foundation for the rest of the band to spring off of. The egoless Corey Bullman (lead vox, guitar) commands an inviting presence, although his occasional “phishy” excursions will dissuade some.
This is my third outing with Fifth House, and my best memories (until now) resided with their slinky covers of funk heavyweights like Bill Withers and Prince. This time around, however, the band relied primarily on originals. The second set opener, “I Can’t Help it Anymore” (a New Orleans funk-style piece that started a spate of three originals in a row), rekindled the flame lit by the first set ender of Hendrix’s “Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire.” Although the momentum ebbed with some of their own material, it’s good to see a band move from the comforts of covers and into individual innovations.
[When he’s not bending readers to his will, Hunter Pope cooks, gardens, hikes and spends his mortgage money on CDs he’s never heard.]