When: Fri., Feb. 12, 8 p.m. 2016
FRIDAY, FEB. 12
JASON MERRITT'S ARALEIGH
For two decades, Jason Merritt was too busy helping others capture their songs as an engineer and producer to worry much with his own musical ideas. But four years ago, after making so many albums with other acts, he finally decided to cobble together his first complete project since college—Araleigh, an ambitious and circuitous 14-track concept album that Merritt will release, for now, as an illustrated art book and with hopes of staging it as a theatrical production. How's that for making up for lost time?
"I've always focused on the other side of the glass, and that's something I knew I wanted to do with my life since I was seventeen years old," says Merritt. "But with Araleigh, I knew I had a pretty full and realized picture. I would have done it sooner if I wasn't so hesitant in asking people for favors."
Merritt used his recording experience as field research, recruiting some of the best players he'd produced to help him build these songs. Members of Dillon Fence, Six String Drag and Birds & Arrows play pivotal roles, as do Tift Merritt (no relation) and her longtime bassist, Jay Brown. Merritt even met the young Rita Glynn—the singer who voices Araleigh, the tragic protagonist of the song cycle—while recording a school music project.
The result delivers a hard-luck, slow-redemption story of fratricide, hardline conservative values, and perseverance through songs that leap from folk-rock drift to chamber-ensemble balladry, from hard-rock pounce to psychedelic tizzies. It's a curious and intriguing album, with styles pulled piecemeal from Merritt's lifelong interests.
"I wasn't worried about differences from song to song. That was deliberate," he says. "I wanted to throw it all in the pot, all the stuff that I love." —Grayson Haver Currin
CAT'S CRADLE BACK ROOM, CARRBORO 8 p.m., $10–$12, www.catscradle.com