Acoustics Anonymous Honest & Wild soundcloud.com/acoustics-anonymous
Make it past the band name "Acoustics Anonymous" -- a name that conjures images of your uncle's buddies playing James Taylor covers at his Labor Day barbeque -- and you'll find a talented young quartet engaged in the roots and rhythms of bluegrass but mixed with a more contemporary ear for harmony and production. Women's Studies majors talk about the "purity myth" foisted on young women in this country; you could borrow the term and apply it to folk and roots fans that confuse some notion of authenticity for talent. Acoustics Anonymous aren't all huddled around the same tin can for this recording, and the production gives room and breath to these eleven songs.
It's to their credit that principal singers Neil Salsich and Drew Jameson don't drop their r's or play up some Appalachian drawl; their voices are strong and distinct on their own, though the band's slowpoke pass at the standard "Liza Jane" ends the disc on a twangy note. The group has the beardo bona fides to fit in with the jam band scene (its rotating drum stool is often filled by members of the Schwag and the Dark Star Orchestra); AA sticks mostly to the structure of roots music without much instrumental discursiveness. The band does occasionally borrow jam music's tendency to make a six-minute song out of a three-minute idea; opening cut "Satan's World" is a solid introduction, though you might think your CD player is stuck on repeat. Elsewhere on Honest & Wild, the band has a tendency to match each foot-stomper with a solemn ballad.
Continue to page two for more of our review.
As bluegrass-inspired folk musicians, the guys in Acoustics Anonymous are deft players without getting showy. The restless instrumental "Ashtray" shows both their chops and their restraint, giving mandolin player Gerard Erker space to solo while keeping the song's center in check. This dexterity is impressive, but across Honest & Wild it doesn't put them in league with old-school bluegrass pickers. Likewise, AA is far too rootsy to be a rock band and not far-out enough to qualify as a pure jam band. None of this is a problem, of course, as these kinds of pureblood classifications are a loser's game. Acoustics Anonymous treads its own patch of land comfortably, if a little too safely, on its debut. Roots music fans should have a good time watching the group stretch out and cross some genre boundaries.
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