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Homebrew

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Refuting the long-held claim that Americans are poor at geography, Idyll Swords filter countless musics of the world through a distinctly American sensibility and spit it back out, taking provincial Southerners like us along for the ride. I'm not gonna pretend to know exactly what ingredients go into this heady brew, but I'm guessing the inspiration for much of it is that funny part of the world where Eastern Europe melts into the Middle East and the exotic flame of Asia licks closer than you think.

In addition to the familiar sound of acoustic guitars, Idyll Swords employ various instruments of the world--cumbus (Turkish banjolin), ruan (Chinese lute), pushpa veena (Indian lap-steel guitar) and baglama saz (sorry, can't help you there). Sitar-guitar leads the way on "Ucalegon Blues" and "Morning in Miniature," while talking-drum percussion adds much to "Moab (Arches)" and "The Mezereon Dynasty."

There's no self-indulgent showboating to be found here, just the electricity of three very talented and attentive musicians playing up to each other's level. This is music to sip tea by. Hell, it's music to smoke tea by--music in which to lose yourself completely. The Swords shift between Michael Hedges' percussive guitar, world-folk and even North Carolina old-time with logic and ease, making a tacit case for all having sprung from a common cradle.

If you're confused to find that two of the creators of this "world music" are Chuck Johnson and Dave Brylawski--alumni of esteemed local rock combos Spatula and Polvo, respectively--you shouldn't be. Idyll Swords' melodic ideas and dissonant turns are a natural extension of both bands.

And if the idea of globe-hopping folk music seems a touch academic, fear not. This is where that unassuming college-rock pedigree comes into play. Or, as Brylawski says in the group's press kit, "The Swords don't have any overriding political or anthropological rationale for incorporating Eastern and Western folk styles--we just think that they flow together nicely, it makes sense to us and it feels good."

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