"He's the best singer in Raleigh, no doubt," Troy Smith raves of his bandmate Rob Watson, sitting across from him at a table at The Rockford on Glenwood Avenue.
Trouble is, Watson doesn't even sing in his and Smith's nascent acoustic pop five-piece, which had its first show at Helios on November 1. Watson just plays the drums. Smith--a country boy from Willow Springs with a voice equal parts folk-singer warmth and Motown groove--is the band's somewhat unsure, altogether talented frontman and vocalist.
It's an odd but entirely typical statement from the 23-year-old Smith, a guy who approaches his music with such humility that he can't even decide on a band name. Despite the suggestions and pleading of his bandmates, he won't hear of "Troy Smith" or "Troy Smith and The [Insert something other than Dukes, Range or E-Street Band here]."
If he wanted to be proud with his tunes, though, one could understand. Smith writes with an unwavering soul and an unsettling intimacy, letting the listener in on the deepest palpitations of his heart--love, heartache and relief. It's all there, and Smith's vocals make it all seem real by way of an alternating Jack Johnson indifference and rock-star conviction a la Ryan Adams and Rob Thomas.
But he's certainly got reason for wanting to give the band its due. The seasoned, all-star cast of locals includes not only Watson (of Kenny Roby and The New Electric Combo) on drums, but also Christopher Thurston (of Donovan & The Posse and Defenestrator) on bass. Robert Baldwin handles keyboard duties, while Troy Wallace (FUZ) manages the band's lead guitar spot. Smith and the gang plan to head into the studio with Rob Farris in the next few months to elaborate on a six-track EP recorded earlier this year.
In the meantime, Watson joins Weekend Excursion on Thanksgiving Day at The Brewery, and Baldwin plays the Tracy Feldman & Friends-Committee Against Israeli Home Demolition Benefit Concert at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro on Dec. 13. And if you have suggestions for a band name, Troy Smith wants to hear them. E-mail potential monikers to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rosebuds always wanted two things from their debut record: to have Brian Paulson produce it and to release it through nearby indie vanguard imprint Merge Records. On Oct. 7, Merge released Make Out--a highly infectious effort of big, jangly pop and lonesome love songs produced by none other than Paulson himself--as one of the parting shots of what has been a banner year for the label. What The Rosebuds didn't expect was to have a tribute band covering their material less than a month after the disc made it to shelves.
Kelly Crisp and Ivan Howard--the band's ultra-congenial husband-and-wife, guitar-and-keys duo, along with drummer Billy Alphin--were on hand at Kings for the club's pre-Halloween Bash on Oct. 28 to see a trio of look-alikes tackle two of their tunes, "Back to Boston" and "Drunkard's Worst Nightmare." Steve Popson introduced the in-character Charles Story as Howard, Craig Tilley as Crisp and Nick Belletti as Alphin (all temporarily on loan from The Weather) as The Rosebuds to a cheering crowd of a hundred and to a howling Crisp and Howard.
"That's just so funny," shouted Howard, trying to feign sarcasm before giving in to laughter.
Jeremy Lowe of The Greatest Hits (who had just played one of their best short sets in town moments before) joined for vocals on the second number, followed by Tilley--dressed in a plaid skirt and a simply too-cute blonde wig--taking a shot at what Crisp might sound like singing onstage. The Weather, who got their start playing out in a classic Kings' Cover-Up, nailed The Rosebuds--look, sound and attitude.
Drunk Horse--a louder and more tawdry take on the Drive-By Truckers' irreverent, but well built rock n' roll fervor--got the crowd moving again with a handful of covers and tracks from their latest effort, Adult Situations. Frontman Eli Eckert, dressed as a retired country clubber with a folded golf magazine peeking from his coat pocket, introduced the rest of the band, a motley crew consisting of a spandex-clad Arsenio Hall Show-guitarist and a bass-pumping cell phone.
"That back there is Lullabye," Eli the Golfer quipped, pointing to drummer Cripe Jergensen. "Don't fucking think about! She's mine!"
The Cherry Valence then hit the stage for a batch of covers that left the folks in a sweat, especially those folks decked out as Slash of Guns N' Roses or Luke Skywalker.
Speaking of The Weather, the quartet's debut high-octane CD is in stores everywhere thanks to their pals at Pidgeon English and Lumberjack Distribution. The band is now out on the road for their first East Coast run, which kicked off November 5 in Asheville and goes through November 17 in Brooklyn with stops along the way in Memphis, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and more. They're bringing the weather. The crowds better come prepared.
Pidgeon English also just released the self-titled debut from the intense math-rock Raleigh three-piece, Proof. Greg Eyman--the band's bassist--also has a fantastic new record out with Goner on Bifocal Media entitled How Good We Had It. And the Pidgeon English split between Bifocal band Utah! and Merge jitterbugs The Rosebuds is officially sold-out. High Fives!
A track produced by 9th Wonder of Little Brother will appear on Jay-Z's swan song, "The Black Album." Little Brother's show scheduled for The Lincoln Theatre on November 22 has been cancelled.
They've sold 25,000 records, been featured on Dawson's Creek and signed a deal with Redeye Records, but local modern rockers Weekend Excursion are calling it quits after some three years as a full-time band. "Being away from home also provided us with the opportunity to reflect on our own personal lives and our musical goals. After a lot of soul searching, we decided that these other aspects in our lives needed more of our time and attention," a statement on the band's website reads. But these boys aren't going down without a fight--or at least without a string of shows across the region. They hit the Cat's Cradle last Friday night, and will play in Greenville, Boone, South Carolina and Florida before year's end. A special acoustic set is scheduled for The Brewery on Thanksgiving night. Bring four cans of cranberry sauce to the door, and you won't get in. The fair is over.
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