Orchard Wall - When you encounter a familiar genre such as Americana or alt-country (as we will have through and through tonight), you really want to see bands rise up and beyond the basics. The violin here is something that brings in some personality and the entire band has a strength and resolve at the core to keep there music fresh and interesting. When it was time for a cover song, they asked us to sing along if we knew it. I rolled my eyebrows as I usually do not recognize cover songs or know the words well enough even if I do. But they instantly accessed the corner of my brain containing "Smoke on the Water" and "Stairway to Heaven" note for note memories. This time, it was the Doobie Brothers "Black Water" which was practically a high school anthem for us. Not bad, and much more sensible than a Led Zeppelin cover, although there are a few that could work for them. Their use of a flugelhorn was also a nice accent, although it could have been a bit louder in the mix. They had enough quality songs that stood out, so they should do well with their skills and their approach.
The North Country - I have been seeing this band quite a bit lately, and they get still continue to impress me more every time out, as opposed to getting used to their sound and needing a break. The main reason is that although they have the feel of a rootsy Americana band, they take it up and well beyond the confines of the genre. A Radiohead cover is one clue, although a simple focused listening to their whole set will be enough. Sadly, there was the usual weekend crowd of conversationalists bringing their Algonquin Table wit to their private talks which are unfortunately magnified into a high decibel buzz. After relocating positions a few times, I was able to absorb this excellent 45 minute set. Like Robert Plant's Band of Joy, they have a rhythm section that makes things quite worldly and allows the music to soar above ground more than most bands that occupy this general rootsy base. They employ spacey sounds more from the strong combination of violin and cello, with some from guitar as well. They reminded me of some sort of Spirogyra and the National combination at times where the strings were adding such depth in the songs. This is a very good band that creates music that a wide variety of music fans can easily dig into.
The Riverbreaks - The Black Cat corrected their tactical error by opening the curtain to the back room so this amazingly large crowd could spread out. It is a credit to the bill, but particularly to the Riverbreaks for getting around six hundred people out for a local showcase. But it was a special show as their second album is finished and available to all (to be reviewed here shortly). The Riverbreaks may be the most grounded band here tonight, but they have plenty of flourish and skill to grab hold of a sound and add their personality to it. They have all the usual instruments with full time keyboards and frequent violin adding that little bit extra. The vocal work is strong and the songs are inviting. I think the trick is that they manage to keep the warmth of the songs clear, while still having the energy to rock it out to a large room. They also add some back-up singers and a guest cellist to jazz up their arrangements a bit in a few of the songs. I am always happy to see the local shows get a good turnout, but it is a testament at how well this band is connecting that they are now drawing crowds like this. Hopefully that growth will continue here and for many other deserving area bands.
Genre of the Day: I always enjoy the genres that some bands create for themselves in their promo materials. Today's favorite is the band Idyll who describes their genre as.... Dramatic Acoustic Folk Pop.