Friday, May 28, 2010

Lizzy Ross and The Magnolia Collective at The Station's Americana Revue

Lizzy Ross
The Station at Southern Rail, Carrboro
May 27, 2010

If it wasn't for the occasional necessity to slip down into a Lucinda Williams style push-pull grit, Lizzy Ross could spend an entire set tip-toeing through upper air of her powdery soft falsetto. With a range so at home and comfy in the thin frequencies of the upper atmosphere, even her more honky tonking tunes like "Wedding Cake" can pass for hushed ballads. Though her silver tongued vocals have the strength and confidence of a prowling tom cat, her songwriting reveals the occasional country-girl soft spot. Stripped down by nature and Americana by arrangement, Lizzy's lyrics are a fluent interpretation of the heart break tempered joy that swirl around young love. Early into the evening the slowly unspooling rhythm and easy spirit of "Maria" congealed the stage with the audience who swayed to Lizzy's Taylor guitar whispering sweet nothings in their ears.

Lizzy Ross' sweet shop brand of roots music served up in the traditions of country soul was the perfect musical ethos for the stage last night at The Station at Southern Rail's newly christened monthly Americana Revue Night. Set to re-occur on the second Thursday of every month beginning June 10, The Station at Southern Rail is hosting free concerts showcasing local folk, alternative country, and roots rock acts as a celebration for the deep well of local talent creating music in this space as well as their expanding base of Americana thirsty followers.

Carrboro being a music town's music town...it will come as no surprise that there is also an interesting and unique twist on the night. While the event will present a different local headliner every month, a loosely gathered recurring cast of local folk and roots artists will always open the show. Representing as the house band and coined "The Magnolia Collective" this group pulls it's base members from Gambling the Muse, The Pneurotics, and The Whiskey Smugglers and in delightful fashion, it will also include guest members from previous headliner bands who appeared on the revue to shape into an ever evolving and always interesting ensemble.

Booking for The Station at Southern Rail Americana Review Night is nearly set for the summer with June 10 finding three piece string trio The Sinful Savage Tigers' mandolin seared acoustic romps and modern, urgent, and inspired Americana song writing on stage at the revue. --Carrboro Ninja

more images from The Station at Southern Rail's Americana Revue yesterday

Lizzy Ross
Lizzy Ross
Lizzy Ross
Lizzy Ross
Lizzy Ross

The Magnolia Collective
The Magnolia Collective
The Magnolia Collective
The Magnolia Collective
The Magnolia Collective

16 image slide-show of Lizzy Ross and The Magnolia Collective along with 1600 pixel down load-able jpegs

Thursday, May 27, 2010

EP Review: Actual Persons Living or Dead

Actual Persons Living or Dead

On their self titled release, Actual Persons Living or Dead presents a soft studio side which is a comfort that this three piece Durham garage rock confederacy seems to have saved back especially for the days and nights in the recording booth. Standing in a dimly lit house party living room on a hot August night two years ago, a modest group of Durham underground rock connoisseurs watched Actual Persons flex their strong arm of marchy drums, hot riff driven electric guitar, and despondently honest vocals as Joyce, Dave, and Kerry rolled up their sleeve and debuted a rocked up mix of emo garage punk. Live shows since then have delighted in following suit and assure many rockus head bobbing moments through the course of their set. Surprising then, that the first track of this release departs from classic garage rock style and trips toward a comfortable haze of chimes and mood interlude sounds for a solid minute before even hinting that you are listening to a rock album. The slow build of the first track's instrumental opening vibe followed by guitar in the middle and pointed vocal outtro serves as metaphor for the disc's six songs which are tracked for the same flow. Hints of the one-two punch build up are given early into the second song "Dogtown Commons" as the dense resounding of earthy and broad guitar work move across the track like a heavy freighter parting deep water through a sound. Prominently positioned guitar tone becomes a common theme from this point on and vocals are used late in the songs and only when the guitar has already said everything that needed to be said. The EP rounds out with the guilty pleasure of the re-purposed 1983 Cyndi Lauper cult classic "She Bop". Subliming the eeriness on an already darkened track, Actual Persons bleeds the pop out of "She Bop"...slowly transfuses emo vengeance back in, and re-animates it as a sanguine specter of it's former shape now possessed to serve as a vessel communicating the sobriety of emotions found within the album. From the sparse early arrangements of "Turkish Bloomers" to the hazy illusions of happiness drawn on a canvass of heartbreak in "...Or It's A Bunny" this EP is comfort food for the guitar hungry and Actual Persons serves it up for breakfast, lunch, and dinner across the album.

A free download of this EP sans "She Bop" is at the Actual Persons Living for Dead bandcamp profile. The EP in CD format with album art and the "She Bop" bonus track is available for a hand shake at live shows.

Actual Persons Living or Dead plays the Eskimo Kiss Records showcase at the Soapbox in Wilmington, NC for WE Fest this Sunday, May 30 2010.

For more on the Eskimo Kiss (goodbye) showcase, please click through to Deckfight

album art
Actual Persons Living or Dead
Actual Persons Living or Dead

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Show Review: Rat Jackson, The Pneurotics

Triangle Brewery, Durham
May 15, 2010

Accessible by Mark Twain romantic figures drifting down the Durham Railroad Street right-of-way via boxcar and by SUV driving Durham city street going realists alike, the Triangle Brewing Company's "Pub Crawl Training Session" held this past Saturday afternoon at the oaken bar between the fermenting tanks and grain stores at their brewhouse was an oasis of entertainment in a desert tempered city-scape of warehouses and silence. The Twains need only jump off a slow rolling coal car and hop the brewery's low slung wooden fence to be where the wind blew them. Everyone else illegally parked on the sidewalk up the hill from the brewery and followed the succession of Sharpie written posters each one reassuring that beer and live music would be rewarded should they steep deeper into the corridors of the factory grounds. Rounding the corner of the thirty foot tall barn like structure there was rejoicing that the scene was not a mirage. Just beyond the taco truck parked in the gravel drive busily serving a couple hundred sun bathed trainees was the raised concrete loading dock now in rock-show-stage configuration with amps lining the back wall, microphone stands fencing the front, and a lively bunch moving in and out of the brewery sampling its taps.

The event not only show cased a fabulous line up of micro brews brought to life on the very premises but it served as as hot spot for The Pneurotics bass player Mimi McLaughlin's rock and roll birthday party and a stage where micro brew sipping party goers stole a few glimpses into Rat Jackson's soon to be new release. As Rat Jackson geared up and got into their set I was standing next to a few out of towner guests and offered commentary who/what Rat Jackson is. Drawing from the previous impressions that their high energy riff running and drama educed refrain story's made, I began my comments. "These guys bring it. They are indie rock meets rock-a-billy." It was just about then that my ears were tuned to an entirely more articulate presence bouncing off the factory walls...one of Rat Jackson's new songs. In a momentary caesura of commentary I noted that the happy beat scale climbing that defines their character and sells-out PBR was sheered back on this one. A longer more purposeful driving guitar rhythm showed through and the largely underrated lead guitar player Steve Oliva was taking the strings to places a lot of people had never been. The glimpse was enough to build upon the anticipation for their album, re-excite my impressions of who/what Rat Jackson is and look at Steve Oliva a little differently than before.

As the Rat Jackson crew finished up, moved into the crowd, and continued the business of sampling micro brews...The Pneurotics' Chris, Mimi, and Lucifer took the stage to finish things. It was dusk by then and in the haze of contentment I almost missed the distant whistle sounding for me. Skirting edge of the crowd I met the low slung wooden fence and hopped over it...wind blowing softly at my back. --Carrboro Ninja

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Big Al Hall and the Marching Rams The Marching Rams
Onward, Soldiers Ghosts in this Town
Charlie the Horse When U Gonna Luv Somebody?

Three new releases from Wilmington bands highlight the renaissance of roots and Americana music in Carolina’s port city. The most traditional of these is also in some ways the most dynamic. The Marching Rams marks the first full-length effort from Alex “Big Al” Hall’s new supergroup of Wilmington area old-time and traditional musicians featuring Hall on banjo and fiddle, Lincoln Morris on guitar, Jones Smith on bass, and Kevin Rhodes on trap set and accordion.

Although Hall aligns himself philosophically with much of the post-punk rediscovery of old-time music, he’s certainly no recent convert to the genre. Having spent much of his youth traveling to fiddlers’ conventions and traditional music festivals around the US searching for the pre-war arrangements of mountain songs, Hall has become as fine an interpreter and arranger of Southern and American folkways as you’ll find performing anywhere.

And it’s just these hard-won bona fides that allow Hall such freedom and joy of expression. Recorded live over the course of a single day in David Lowery’s Sound of Music studio in Richmond, Virginia, the 12 song collection burns away the layers of accumulated age and presents each song as if it were freshly written. On the oft-covered “Fall on My Knees,” for example, Hall’s rich and aching tenor lays bare the stark pain lurking beneath the easy humor of the lover’s lament. The collection’s two most inspired performances, a spirited update of Ola Belle Reed’s arrangement of “Boat’s Up the River” and a decidedly raucous version of “Red Rocking Chair,” find the Rams ready to explode into the ether while Hall’s assured phrasing keeps them grounded and centered. Indeed, throughout The Marching Rams, Hall wisely contrasts his weary, lonesome vocal phrasing with the big-tent percussive power of Morris, Smith, and Rhodes. As a result, the tunes rarely throw all their energy behind a single emotional pitch or vamp broadly as affectation. They discover, instead, that dusty patch of ground where we all go about fussing over our own lives.

Rhodes and Smith also provide the rhythm and roll for Onward, Soldiers’ debut platter Ghosts in This Town. At their best, Sean Thomas Gerard’s songs effortlessly marry sweet, progressive electric folk to the nostalgic pangs of traditional arrangements, calling to mind both the Black Crowes looser B-sides as well as the white-knuckle gothic of Texas surf. Gerard’s speakers seem at times young men frustrated by a world they want desperately to love and at others to be old souls slowly rediscovering the simple beauties. Regardless, Gerard’s ghosts are inveterate talkers and showman, drunk with the possibilities of the material world around them to broadcast their poetry. Thus in “Let the Time Roll By” parking meters become microphones just as jailed midwives are commandeered as choristers. In “Relic” a picture frame transforms into the pursed lips of a lover’s kiss and, later, a mother’s promise.

Throughout Ghosts, Onward, Soldiers builds its aesthetic on a fever dream of movement. Gerard’s anxiously strummed acoustic guitar parries meaningfully with Rhodes’ fluttering brush and stick work. Rather than simple wanderlust, however, the songs here feel pursued. As if a dark and ugly past is always threatening to overtake Gerard’s cast of highway ghosts and sidewalk preachers as they journey to the end of each coda.

Newcomers Charlie the Horse, on the other hand, are totally unencumbered by the weight of the past, focused as they are on a vivid and tumbling present. Although the least assured of these new releases, When U Gonna Luv Somebody? represents the boldest statement of intent among the three. Frontman Andrew Zucchino’s clear and confident vocal delivery brings to mind Adam Stephens of Two Gallants, but where Stephens often employs his desperate growl as a siege engine of anger and regret, Zucchino seems content to serenade the stars with his love-struck vibrato. As a collective Charlie the Horse already possesses an impressively diverse color palette intended for a wide canvas. The results can be ponderous at times, but when everything clicks, as on the bustling stomp of “Thunderstorm” or the slow burn of the stereolit “Fever,” Somebody demands full and careful attention. Charlie the Horse has quickly built a strong reputation as live performers in Wilmington, so it’s heartening to find how much of that live energy the quintet has succeeding in transferring to wax.

Charlie the Horse will be opening for Sinful Savage Tigers Thursday, May 13th at the Cave in Chapel Hill. As well as for Jeremy Blair From Effingham, Saturday May 15th at the Broad Street Café in Durham. --Hidden Tiger