LEAF headliners celebrate sweet new disc on Sugar Hill

“Slower than molasses.”

The McMurrys of Acoustic Syndicate often use this timeworn country phrase. It fits the lengthy process of making molasses and making good records. Which is appropriate, since they do both — and with similar dedication and success.

Brothers Fitz Jr. and Bryon and cousin Steve form the foundation of Acoustic Syndicate, who’ll headline the Main Stage at LEAF this Saturday night.

The McMurrys — who stick together like molasses, if you will — grew up and still live within two miles of each other near Shelby, in Cleveland County, and continue to farm together.

Their band, meanwhile, remains dedicated to mountain-flavored jamming informed by an emotive songcraft that puts them far afield of the typically lighter, Colorado-style newgrass sound.

Acoustic Syndicate’s latest record, Long Way Round, was released Tuesday on roots giant Sugar Hill Records.

But the three McMurrys haven’t had much time to celebrate their latest sweet success. During recent phone interviews on break from making molasses all day with Fitz Sr. (Fitz and Bryon’s father), the three musicians revealed that the recent double round of tropical chaos wiped out more than half of their 11-acre crop.

“Molasses has been in our family 100 years,” said Bryon. “We feel a sense we shouldn’t let it go.”

Farmers have suffered considerably during recent hard economic times, points out Steve, who spoke on the subject at a press conference when the band played Farm Aid in 2001. “But it’s the life we’ve chosen,” the singer adds.

“I’m real proud of them,” Fitz Sr. puts in. “They do a good job. I couldn’t do it without them.”

The musical legacy, meanwhile, is busily dripping down to the next generation. Acoustic Syndicate’s three McMurrys, mainly in their late 30s, are all married, and Fitz and Bryon’s young children already dabble on various instruments.

Still, despite their new status as family men, band members describe Long Way Round as a harder-rocking effort. It is, according to chief arranger Fitz, “more organic, rootsy, raw — the most aggressive album” to date.

“If it sounded like it needed a full drum kit, keyboard, electric guitar or horns, we didn’t hold back,” adds Steve.

When it came to the band’s latest collective baby, he says, “we let [it] go where it wanted to go.”

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