So It Goes
N.C. country boy Randy Whitt began strumming his guitar at an early age to escape the boredom of his hometown of Pittsboro.
With his first album, "So It Goes," his excellent guitar performance reinforces the old adage of "practice makes perfect."
His guitar playing overshadows his vocals. They aren't bad, maybe just a little less polished and practiced than his guitar playing. When he sings the title track, he belts out the chorus as over-earnestly as a kid trying to impress the crowd at a talent show.
There are also occasions when you can't help but feel like he's winking at his audience. He sounds like an unoriginal mixture between Elvis and Chris Isaac in "Hip Cat," but when he literally meows into the microphone, that personal touch makes you smile.
There are other times when he channels a countrified version of Counting Crows' front man Adam Duritz. The opening riff of "G Street" seems like it's straight out of "Angels of the Silences." from "Recovering the Satellites." On this track, his vocals finally get an edge -- something missing over the course of the relatively short album (at 37 minutes).
But while his vocals may prove somewhat inconsistent, his guitar playing is excellent throughout.
Whitt switches back and forth between electric and acoustic, and both play well. His electric guitar has a bit of a jazzed-up Santana feel to it, but his acoustic guitar really lays the foundation for some powerful, serene tracks.
The only time the album ever falls flat is at the end of some tracks. "Breadcrumb Lullaby" fades out with a long stretch of out-of-place a cappella singing then ends to the sounds of conversations at a cocktail party. Was the point to make the album seem longer than it really is?
While Whitt plans a cross-country tour next year, he's playing around the Chapel Hill area until then. Check him out before he hits the road.
By Allison Rost
With their 1989 masterpiece, Paul's Boutique, the Beastie Boys changed hip hop forever with their reinterpretation of the style; California-based rock outfit Dredg aim to do the same thing to rock by infusing it with styles ranging from instrumental-jam bands to hard core.
While Leitmotif falls far short of revolutionizing anything, Dredg's first full-length release shows enough promise and emphasis on innovation to make their larger-than-life aspirations seem possible, though unlikely.
The album seems to be the answer to age-old question -- what would happen if a bunch of artsy-hippie types who really like hard rock made an album? Leitmotif is mish-mash of hard rock songs, slower guitar-driven instrumentals, a pinch of hard core and a smattering of R2D2-inspired bleeping, blooping transitions.
The most entertaining and easily accessible parts of the disc are the rock sections of the songs which sound like a more intelligent version of Silverchair. It's interesting to see how Dredg attempts to integrate the rock sections with the instrumental and hard core ideas.
"Yatahaze" and "Movement II: Crosswind Minuet" both begin as simple rock songs that then crescendo in emotional intensity to hard core, then fade away into instrumentals. Few bands could competently cram as many feelings into a five-minute song as are sardined into "Yatahaze."
With track listings like "Penguins in the Desert" and liner notes that seem to include a drug-induced travel log rather than lyrics, Dredg appears to be the kind of self-important, pretentious band critics love to abuse. Fortunately, the band backs up its eccentricities with catchy, interesting music that pushes to the edges of the rock genre and gets better with each additional listen.
Leitmotif was recently re-released in an attempt to drum up public interest for Dredg's first effort on its new record label -- Interscope Records. It will be interesting to see whether increased attention from the public eye will result in Dredg becoming more "radio-friendly." One hopes it won't.
The strength of the band is its neurotic fear of sounding like one of the generic groups who currently populate the airwaves. The day Dredg starts making albums that don't include seamless transitions from emo-rock to hard core would be the day that Dredg fails in its mission to expand rock's horizons and recedes into anonymity.
By Trafton Drew
Jump, Little Children
Oh, the sweet sounds of freedom.
Jump, Little Children has returned to its independent-release roots after parting ways earlier this year with former Atlantic Records imprint Breaking Records.
On Sept. 25, the acoustic-funk popsters will officially release Vertigo -- its first album in three years -- on their own label, EZ Chief Records.
And this one is worth the wait.
Vertigo takes listeners on an emotional rollercoaster ride through the personal experiences of the Charleston, S.C.-based quintet since the 1998 release of Magazine, the band's only major label record to date.
The band has abandoned much of the blues and Celtic-tinged sounds of previous albums in favor of a more pop flavor, but they still manage to stay distinct and fresh. Vertigo meddles with guitar effects and smooth arrangements to create a sound that is all its own.
From the pulsing rhythm of "Too High" to the melodic refrain of "Words of Wisdom," the fivesome will remind you why they have earned such a wide grassroots following, despite performing on street corners and in clubs.
While the guys are talented songwriters in their own right, there's something operatic about listening to Jump, Little Children tunes -- understanding the lyrics isn't mandatory for understanding the emotion behind them. Just like past performances, lead vocalist Jay Clifford fills in any gaps on Vertigo with his sometimes-haunting, always-passionate delivery.
Clifford, also the chief songwriter of Jump Little Children, uses his careening vocal delivery to add shades of emotion to the broken imagery of his lyrics. His songs focus around love and all its various effects on life. "Lover's Greed" speaks of the lengths that love will take people, conjuring images of fat birds feeding on spring blossoms. Elsewhere, "Angeldust" dreams of oceans on fire, signalling the impending end of a love affair.
But versatile vocalist and musician Matt Bivins will disappoint those Jump, Little Children fans who have come to expect at least one fun, funky rap number from him. His dark, introspective performance of "Singer" seems more suited for open mic night at a local coffeehouse.
Despite one starkly out-of-place tune, Bivins and his bandmates maintain their success with this eclectic mix of mournful ballads, thoughtful mid-tempo tunes and driving high-energy tracks.
It's as if Jump, Little Children has seen the ugly world of major record labels and has matured both musically and lyrically from the experience.
Welcome back from the dark side, guys.
By Harmony Johnson
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