Roots/blues/Americana trio Turchi takes its name from singer-songwriter/slide-guitarist Reed Turchi. The front man also gave his band a unique designation: kudzu boogie. “Kudzu is this great all-encompassing, quickly-growing, swallowing-everything image,” says Reed. There’s a sort of parallel between the ubiquitous vine (imported from Asia to stop erosion and long-since turned wildly invasive), and the band’s approach to absorbing American roots music influences. “The tradition that we fit in is somewhere between Southern rock and North Mississippi blues, and we’ve been pushing out of those toe-holds.”
He adds, “All sorts of weird stuff gets lost and swallowed up in kudzu. It seems to be pretty evocative of the styles we’ve gotten into and the directions we’ve taken.”
And then there’s the theory that the roots of the kudu are edible and grow so deep that the American south might be the only place were humans could survive nuclear fall-out. You know, if they want to live off of kudzu. Kudzu boogie seems a much better bet: easily digestible, good to dance to, steeped in lore and thoughtfully-rendered, but also always up for a good time.
What Reed wonders is if Asheville is ready for kudzu boogie, because the songwriter and his band are bringing their unique spin on southern sounds to Western N.C. long term. That’s right, Turchi’s Saturday, July 6 show at The Lab (9:30 p.m., $7) is not just an average tour-stop. It’s a homecoming.
Reed grew up in the area. His father, Peter Turchi, was director of the Warren Wilson College MFA program from ‘93-‘08, and Reed says that not only did he have numerous friends through the program, but attended countless MFA readings by poets and fiction writers. “There’s no question that had a pretty profound influence on my ear,” he says. The band (drummer Cameron Weeks and bassist Andrew Hamlet) formed in Chapel Hill, where Reed went to college, but has more recently been scattered between Memphis and the Carolina Coast.
“After a lot of time spent on the road, it seemed perfect to go to the most familiar place possible,” says Reed. “Being on the road for so long and seeing glimpses of places helped me figure out what I want and what sort of landscape I want to be around.” He says the touring will continue, but when he comes home it will be to a place that really is home.
A listen to the band’s new EP, My Time Ain’t Now, reveals a clear sense of place, from the use of slide guitar with its distinct voice at once bluesy and mournful, to the lyrics that capture snapshots of still life and life seen from the window of a moving vehicle. “A lot of the songs are about places and people in Asheville,” Reed says. The songs “Brother’s Blood,” from Turchi’s live album, recorded in Lafayette, La., is about a high school friend of Reed’s who died in a motorcycle accident. “‘Feels like Home’ is all Asheville-image based and pretty autobiographical,” he says about a track from the new EP.
The EP leads with “Minds Eye,” a slow but intense song that builds as it goes, menacing but intriguing. It’s equal parts desperado and deep-South swagger. The drums hit just behind the beat, unhurried, and the lyrics snarl, “When you come for me some night, better bring a shovel, be expecting the worst.” But while those elements all set the scene — the swampy, haunted, storied pulse of the song — it’s the slide guitar that’s the star.
“To me, the sound of the slide and the very unique phrasing and vocal-esque [tone] is a way more expressive way of playing an instrument than regular guitar or piano,” says Reed. “It’s very touch-sensitive and there’s no defined scale. There are all the micro-tones and everything comes down to how you approach or move away from each note.” And, he continues, there’s a mythical history to the slide, including the bone or whiskey bottle or pen knife used to play the instrument.
Turchi’s approach to Southern music has not gone unnoticed. Literary magazine Oxford American has a web feature on the band set to run just before Turchi plays the magazine’s showcase at its recently-opened venue, South on Main in Little Rock, Arkansas. “We’ll be one of the very first bands to play there,” says Reed.
But first Turchi touches down in Asheville. July 6 at the Lab will be the inaugural full-fledged local show with the band’s complete lineup. Says Reed, “It’s also the first time we’re going to debut a lot of songs off the new EP.” Because what better place to show off material than your new (old) hometown?