Smart Bets: Race to the Bottom live show

You probably know Jon Reid as the musician formerly known as Jar-e. You might also know him from Twitter or other platforms where he's irreverent, sarcastic and downright funny. If you know him from his weekly AshevilleFM show “Race to the Bottom” (Sundays from 7-9 p.m.) then you already know what's in store when Reid brings that online broadcast to the live stage.

The “Race to the Bottom” live show, Sunday, March 4, 7 p.m. at BoBo Gallery, includes jazz duo The D Tones (featuring Jacob Rodriguez and Zack Page), music from Jonathan Scales, Ami Worthen, Juan Holladay and Angi West, stand-up comedy by Tom Scheve of the Asheville Disclaimer and stories from Sanuk D and Vince Ponder. $8 at the door.

But, back to Reid's other calling: music.

Reverb and Tambourine, set to release on March 20, is the local singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist's fifth but the first under his actual name. (Previous efforts Heartache, War Songs and the Muse, Chicas Malas and Blood of the Summer are attributed to Jar-e.) In November of last year, Reid wrote on his Facebook page, "I'm taking a hiatus from the Jar-e thing. In the meantime, check out and 'like' my radio show. Music, comedy and tragedy." And then (happily) out of seemingly nowhere came Reverb and Tambourine.

The collection is a strong group of songs rich in nuance but immediately accessible. The album is shot through with themes of relationships, a sense of newness and future unfolding, breezy, island beats and high, clear vocals. It suggests a project conceived of and executed in a flurry of creative inspiration.

"Bright Girl" is a fantastical dream-waltz ("Ordinary things they couldn't touch her. So when they pulled her body from the lake, you know she smiled"). Clocking in at under two minutes, the song makes up for in intensity and orchestration what it lacks in length.

"Moccasins," by contrast, eases in with the lazy gold-washed country rock of the Eagles, run through Reid's pop lyric prowess. Here he makes a thought-scape about — what? A guy having a blah day? A guy who can't find a parking space? — somehow ripe with metaphor and bittersweet nostalgia.

Opening track "Nevertheless" sounds, by its title, like an afterthought. A signing off. But it's here, from the insistent punch of the guitar part that Reid makes his presence felt. "I won't let you down," he sings. "Different is the blood that flows through me, but still it calls me back to you." Whether this is an artist returning from a dark place or simply a catchy lyric, Reid soars into his trademark falsetto, launching the record into a fresh, bright atmosphere.

Reverb and Tambourine is bookended by an additional standout track, another instance of Reid showing his hand. "Come Back Heart" pulls out all the stops (though the album is full of surprises — guest appearances by steel pan player Jonathan Scales, vocalist Stephanie Morgan, violin by Jason Krekel and horns from Justin Ray and Jacob Rodriguez). Here, following a sax solo by Rodriguez, a chorus of voices enters with the chant "Holy other, dear departed" — perhaps Reid's answer to the mystical mantra in George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord." Only Reid, here, is casting prayers at the temple of the self, the higher self of tender emotions and untapped potential.

— Alli Marshall can be reached at Photo by Ami Worthen.


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