It would be hard for any recording to meet or exceed the bar set in 2014 by Jeffrey Dean Foster, T0w3rs and Molly McGinn with their near-perfect releases, but scratch the surface and there’s plenty of buried musical treasure in the Piedmont Triad from this year’s yield.
In no particular order, here’s a rundown of new albums by groups from Winston-Salem, Greensboro and, yes, High Point, with one or two extras thrown in for good measure to acknowledge artists or producers with local roots.
Daddy Issues stole a lot of hearts during their meteoric, two-year career, ending with their disbandment a few months ago. But the infectious Greensboro punk outfit, aptly described by one critic as riot grrrl with a sunny, southern California feel, left a startlingly impressive full-length album, F*** Marry Kill as a last will and testament, ranging from the action-ready “Pissed” to the melancholy “Wild Thing.” (Get it at daddyissuesnc.bandcamp.com.)
Rhiannon Giddens is an artist of national stature who happens to be from Guilford County and reside in Greensboro. After almost a decade of recording and touring with the acclaimed Carolina Chocolate Drops, Giddens’ profile rose dramatically with her turn at a concert at New York City’s Town Hall to celebrate the music of Inside Llewyn Davis. Producer T-Bone Burnett discovered her there and recruited her to join Elvis Costello, Jim James, Marcus Mumford and Taylor Goldsmith for a reworking of Bob Dylan and the Band’s legendary “Basement Tapes” sessions. Giddens’ solo debut, Tomorrow Is My Turn, also produced by Burnett, puts her squarely in the spotlight, curating songs from a wide stylistic range that were either written or interpreted by women. If Tomorrow Is My Turn isn’t enough, Factory Girl, a five-song EP with additional material from the Burnett sessions, hits stores on Black Friday. (Both albums are released by Nonesuch Records, and are available at nonesuch.com.)
Doug Davis defines what it means to be a pro musician in the Winston-Salem music scene, and with a repertoire of hundreds of songs, he’s able to fill any bill in the various cover bands he plays in. But he’s also a peerless songwriter with a raspy, soulful voice, who periodically applies his tools to his original material with his band the Solid Citizens. “Shiloh” and “Gold Leaf and Old Virginia Pine,” which respectively open and close When the Lilies Bloom, provide a fair sense of the kind of refined Southern rock with a pop sensibility at which Davis excels. (Get it at cdbaby.com/cd/dougdavis2.)
The Greensboro husband-and-wife duo Daniel and Lauren Goans, who perform as Lowland Hum, seemed to come out of nowhere in late 2013, and quickly established a national profile with relentless touring and prolific songwriting. Their intimate lyricism, which seems ripped from the pages of the young couple’s daily life, transmits as a chamber-folk sound that comes across as bigger than what you might expect from two musicians. (Their self-titled sophomore album, along with their debut LP and 2014 EP, are available at lowlandhum.bandcamp.com.)
Mipso launched from Chapel Hill, coalescing around a love of old-time music shared by four students. Three out of four members hail from the Triad; Libby Rodenbough and Wood Robinson grew up in Greensboro, while Joseph Terrell comes from High Point. As young musicians with fine-arts training and a respect for tradition, their abilities and inclinations nonetheless drive them to refine and embellish the Piedmont string-band tradition. (Get their new album, Old Time Reverie, at itunes.apple.com.)
Wish Vehicles, the new album from Celestogramme, merits mention here as a five-year collaboration between Chapel Hill-based songwriter Amanda Lindsey and veteran producer Mitch Easter. According to Celestogramme’s official bio, Lindsey and Easter bonded over their shared love of harpsichords, mellotrons and Soft Machine’s Volume 1 when they met in 2009. As they found time between Lindsey’s work as an archaeologist and biologist and Easter’s responsibilities running the Fidelitorium recording studio in Kernersville, they stitched together Wish Vehicles, a shimmering pop-psychedelia warp in the time-space continuum. (Get it at celestogramme.bandcamp.com.)
If you came of age during North Carolina’s golden age of indie rock in the early 1990s (name-check Superchunk, Polvo and Archers of Loaf), the Greensboro band the Kneads nicely captures that noisy and tuneful zeitgeist of intelligent, youthful rebellion. They’re dad rock for big kids who aren’t quite comfortable adjusting to adult conventions. (Get Letting You Let Me Down at thekneads.bandcamp.com.)
A 9th Wonder production credit is practically the seal of good housekeeping in hip hop. Also known as Patrick Douthit, the Winston-Salem native has worked with Jay Z, Ludacris and Drake, among others. Likewise, 9th Wonder’s Jamla Records label is quickly garnering a reputation for unerring indie quality. And while Douthit makes the Triangle his base of operations, Winston-Salem remains close to his heart, as he proved at a label showcase at Ziggy’s in March. Any Jamla release this year is a solid bet. Start with 9th Wonder and Talib Kweli’s collaboration, Indie 500, with guest turns by rising star Rapsody, among others. Then check out Chicago-based iconoclast-activist emcee Add-2’s debut, Prey for the Poor. If those two don’t satiate, throw in Bad Lucc and Amp on the Beat’s Breathe and Khrysis’ On the Boards. (Get the goods at jamlarecords.com.)
A amalgamation of indie-rock studio musicians from Randy Seals’ On Pop of the World Studios in Greensboro with emcee Eric Murphy and vocalist Dottie Na$h, Dildo of God mixes bemused raps, trippy sonics and terse social commentary. (Get their EP, “Dog Food Lid,” and single “All Yanitas” at dildoofgod.bandcamp.com.)
Foxture effortlessly mixes indie rock with modern R&B, which makes the young quartet perfect ambassadors for Triad scene unity. The elegant artwork by Kendall Doub on the cover of their new EP, Circles, completes the loop, so to speak. (Get it at fixture.bandcamp.com.)
Winston-Salem’s Aquatic Ceremony arose from the merger of vocalist Amy Fitzgerald’s poetry and the ambient experimentalism of Matt Cooley, Eric Glenn and Chad McHenry. Their self-titled EP came out in January. (Get it at aquaticceremony.bandcamp.com.)
Wolves & Wolves & Wolves & Wolves from Winston-Salem has logged countless miles on the road establishing a reputation for gruff, melodic hardcore-punk. If they haven’t landed a spot on the Vans Warped tour yet, then it’s high time. (Their four-song EP, released in September, is available at wolveswolveswolveswolves.bandcamp.com.)
Clay Howard has a knack for radio-friendly guitar power-pop in the vein of Cheap Trick and Badfinger. That’s not to knock Howard’s music — commercial radio didn’t always suck. Best known for his work with Stratocruiser, the guitarist-singer-songwriter makes light of his relative obscurity on his new album, Who the Hell Is Clay Howard? (Get a copy at stratoclay.wix.com.)
Robin Doby & the Stovepipes developed a reputation for scintillating shows as a soul-blues cover band in the Greensboro bar scene back in the day. Besides sharing the same lead singer, who now goes by Robin Easter, Doby is a whole different venture, with original material and a soul-funk sound that owes more to Mother’s Finest than Eddie Floyd. (Get Doby’s self-titled debut album at dobymusic.com.)
The Luxuriant Sedans is a Triad super-group of vintage rock ’n’ rollers and blues cats. If you appreciate the raunch of the Rolling Stones in their “Stray Cat Blues” phase and you don’t mind some mileage, then the Luxuriant Sedans’ Born Certified might be the ride for you. All accomplished players, Mike Wesolowski, Ed Bumgardner, Rob Slater, Gino Grandinetti and Bob Tarleton have the advantage of knowing that the vehicle runs best when all the parts work together. (Get the album at itunes.apple.com.)
Beloved was a post-hardcore band made up of members who attended East Forsyth High School that burst on the scene in 1999. They broke up in early 2005, with various members finding work with Monday In London, Classic Case and the Almost. Singer Josh Moore moved to Chapel Hill and took up a gentle strain of acoustic folk. It’s been a long time coming, but his debut solo album, Parted Ways, is here. (Get it at cdbaby.com.)
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