One of the best introductory EPs released in the Triangle this decade, the eponymous Wood Ear gathers six tracks from Durham songwriter Nate Tarr recorded nearly two years ago. Tarr's voice suggests a kinship with Jay Farrar, and his direct delivery and straightforward guitar-and-drums approach should find favor with fans of the No Depression triumvirate. But Wood Ear springboards from angst-of-age dissidence, Tarr singing scattershot service-industry laments like it's all that keeps his sanity intact. His three-minute tunes cut hard and quick, even when he's singing somewhat softly over a gentle rhythm on "Manage." Like the narrator of "My Back Pages" and with the brittle but resilient voice of a male Aimee Argote, Tarr's maladjusted by the cog he's become, and he's fighting back.
During "Currency," Tarr charges the alt.country generalities with a wide, chewy Dinosaur Jr. bassline, fitting enough as he ruminates over the rhythm like it's the timeclock on the wall, ticking his days away: "Time was everywhere, free for taking/ So I took all that I could, with no appreciation/ And now I'm begging for more time." With diminishing time, he's reporting diminishing profits on "Elusive Limbs"—or at least profits he can't afford to keep: "It's worms feasting on my fruit," he sings, his voice cresting near a scream as an electric guitar pushes up behind his acoustic. Even before he lands that line, this is a guy you just want to pull for.
Wood Ear plays The Cave with Dawn Chorus and Butterflies Saturday, Feb. 2.