Whether it’s world music, Appalachian folk, lounge or rock, Asheville-area artists tend to temper their sounds with eclectic add-ons and unexpected twists. These new releases—from two fairly well-known groups and two up-and-comers—show how a little fusion goes a long way.
Hiding in Plain Sight by Locomotive Pie
This extended-length (15 tracks) collection of mostly original tunes has a lot going for it: tasteful, never over-played instrumentation, deceptively simple songs and Mark Appleford’s reedy and strangely familiar vocals. For listeners unfamiliar with regular Blue Mountain Pizza gigs of this trio (bassist Jim Boyer and percussionist Billy Owens join Appleford), Hiding is a great introduction. The song styles reference country rock acts like America and Neil Young and Crazy Horse, with harmonica that ventures toward the lonely side of the blues. Some songs are hooky enough to recall the blues-pop of the Spin Doctors (“Lettin’ it All Hang Out,” “Forget You”) while others—“Maybe” with its swingy, two-step feel and the rollicking, jazzy flavor of “I Know Enough”—showcase Locomotive Pie’s versatility. Hiding is a solid, if seemingly endless, effort.
Locomotive Pie plays Blue Mountain Pizza on Saturday, Nov. 29, 7 p.m.
The Unraveling by Free Planet Radio
At first glance, an uninitiated listener could pass Free Planet Radio’s new release (the group’s first in four years) off as atmospheric New Age soundscape, what with the Buddha on the cover and the list of well-traveled instruments. But what percussionist River Guerguerian, multi-instrumentalist Chris Rosser and Grammy Award-winning bassist Eliot Wadopian create is far beyond the sum of their parts. Unraveling‘s tracks journey from world-beat tapestries (“Tangoa” is distinctly Middle Eastern) to heady jazz compositions (“Same Sad Refrain”). Free Planet Radio’s artists could be equally at home backing Scheherazade or setting the mood in a swank urban watering hole, but the flawless execution of Unraveling suggests they’re unaffected by their surroundings and instead aspire to craft whole new worlds and moods.
Learn more about Free Planet Radio at www.freeplanetradio.com.
Bloodroot Red by Eliza Rosbach
For this listener, “Spinning the bottle” is the standout track on singer/songwriter Eliza Rosbach’s disc. The rich harmonies (with herself) and the drop-dead standup bass line (provided by John Branigan) are reason enough, but the line, “Whoever said nice guys never win must have been an a**hole,” is the clincher. Bloodroot Red is an acoustic collection with pin-drop clarity, excellent musicianship and some stellar songwriting. Rosbach dances on the fence between Appalachian folk and quirk pop, adding in an Abigail Washburn-reminiscent banjo here (paired with lyrics culled from the poetry of Rosbach’s great-grandmother), a homespun lullaby of botany and mountain lore there. Rosbach’s singing voice is distinctively Southern and thick with inflection. Unusual, but effective, much like this haunting and highly unique collection that reveals its intricate layers with further listening.
Copies of Eliza Rosbach’s album are available at www.cdbaby.com/cd/elizarosbach.
Hectors Nectar by Hector’s Nectar
This self-titled debut from local lounge duo Hector’s Nectar is the soundtrack to a project that is as much performance art as it is a band. The slight five-song collection is a testament to capabilities of two guys (Ben Gibbs and Rory Kelly, of Crank County Daredevils) with decent recording equipment and a little MySpace.com self-marketing savvy. Aside from layered keys and shimmery percussion, “Sun and Sand” features some intricate guitar work, while “Darling Sophia” serves up an aggressively surf-rock bass line bleeding through spacey synth and funk guitar. Unabashed theatrics—Gibbs’ soaring (and likely modified) vocals; disco beats and ‘80s electronics—lend to the cinematic feel of this record. In fact, the only thing that doesn’t scream retro-glam excess is the all-too-brief playtime.
Learn more about Hector’s Nectar at www.myspace.com/hectorsnectarband.