All Good Presents…
Mipso, The Brothers Comatose, The Lil Smokies
Sun, November 12, 2017
Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 7:00 pm
Chapel Hill quartet Mipso return with new a new album, Coming Down The Mountain (April 7, 2017) -- ten songs of love and loss and forward motion, with words that sear and salve in turn, and music that invites you in to stay a while. Mipso ventures further than ever from their string-band pedigree to discover a broader Americana where classic folk-rock and modern alt-country mingle easily with Appalachian tradition.
It's an album aptly named, not only because the band finds purchase in a more pastoral sound, but also because of the stories they tell. These are songs about going somewhere or coming back, about our changing relationship to the idea of home, and about being pushed or pulled by forces bigger than us.
These North Carolinians cross a threshold too, adding drums for the first time in three LPs, and more electric instruments than ever to their four-part harmonies and powerful acoustic meld. The resulting album is a thing of wistful beauty, hopeful undercurrents, and panoramic soundscapes that impart intimacy.
Looking in from outside, Mipso didn't need to change much at all. Their 2015 album, Old Time Reverie, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard bluegrass chart despite including sounds far afield from a Flatt and Scruggs record. Just a couple years before, guitarist Joseph Terrell, fiddler Libby Rodenbough, mandolin player Jacob Sharp, and bassist Wood Robinson were in college together at UNC-Chapel Hill, where they met for the first time even with being NC natives every one.
Now, it seems as if Mipso has been bringing their music to hungry audiences daily since, touring constantly, doing countless festivals, and even playing the odd nationally televised event (2015's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade) or political bash (2017's inaugural ball for their governor Roy Cooper).
Libby admits that all that movement takes a toll. "We hit a crazed state of being either hysterically happy or annoyed with each other. Food helps. We all agree on tacos," she says. "But travel becomes the lens we use to view everything."
Last summer, though their heads were full of songs about movement, Mipso decided to slow the world down. "Rather than put pedal to metal till we have a new album, we huddled," says Joseph. They stocked up on snacks and cases of La Croix, and set up for a week in a friend's barn on acreage usually used for growing garlic and, oddly, training dogs.
First they played each other the music they'd been listening to lately, and some inspirations stuck: the Band's singular sound, the openness of '70s Laurel Canyon fare, Whiskeytown's Gram Parsons-inspired '90s rock experiments, and how Gillian Welch's Soul Journey perfectly bridged acoustic to electric.
"We talked about adding drums and electric guitar like it was a huge symbolic shift," Joseph continues, "We joked about people yelling 'Judas!' from the crowd.” But they plugged in all the same, discovered that the change in sound wasn't so much of a departure after all, work-shopped demos occasionally interrupted by packs of dogs chasing birds past the big windows, and ultimately took that looseness with them to the studio.
If it seems like the twin influences of tour angst and homey ease would be at odds, Coming Down The Mountain's titular opener puts that lie to rest. It's melancholic and lush, with pedal steel and a subtle bass groove framing Libby's lines about returning to a flawed society after a period of isolation, weary but driven. On "Spin Me Round," the fiddle sighs and soars while Jacob sings of a similar duality in love, concluding that the relationship's troubles are actually what keep it interesting.
Meanwhile, the rambler "Talking in My Sleep" with hints of Heart of Gold-era Neil Young era juxtaposes the comfort of home's dependability with the feeling of, as Joseph says, wanting to "kick a chair over, slam the door, and beat out of town." And though the spare duet "Cry Like Somebody" plays like a scathing dig at a ex, it's self-directed, as Libby explains, "to give myself a kick for crying for reasons other than real hardship—you only think as romantically as I do if you grew up with food on the table." Internal conflict is a powerful engine.
While there are joyful tunes like coming-of-age clod-kicker "Hurts So Good," Coming Down The Mountain is all the more memorable for what it does with loss—take the delicate folk fable "My Burden with Me," or funeral lament "Monterey County" with mournful pedal steel by Eric Heywood (Son Volt, Tift Merritt). The dirge-like closer "Water Runs Red" was inspired partly by Flint's water crisis, and Jacob's lilting "Hallelujah" by the 2016 Orlando tragedy. "Music is my religion these days," he says. "I find the most hope in songs and the communities that love them."
Mipso are well supported on album too, of course, with Megafaun's Brad Cook producing and a cast of North Carolina’s finest pitching in. In fact, if there's a guiding force here, it's the mercurial, imperfect nature of the very state that made Mipso. “North Carolina’s complicated. But I wouldn’t want to live in L.A, where it’s 70 degrees every day and everyone agrees with me," says Joseph.
But Mipso thrive in the difference. That's why they needed change. That's why we need them.
Joseph Terrell (guitar, vocals)
Wood Robinson (bass, vocals)
Libby Rodenbough (fiddle, vocals)
Jacob Sharp (mandolin, vocals)
The Brothers Comatose
Whether traveling to gigs on horseback or by tour bus, Americana mavens The Brothers Comatose forge their own path with raucous West Coast renderings of traditional bluegrass, country and rock ‘n’ roll music. The five-piece string band is anything but a traditional acoustic outfit with their fierce musicianship and rowdy live shows reminiscent of stadium rock concerts. In fall 2017, “Campfire Caravan” featuring The Brothers Comatose, Mipso, and The Lil Smokies hosts three of today’s foremost emerging indie Americana bands as they trek across the United States to more than 30 cities. “Campfire Caravan” honors the musicians’ early days playing music, when they’d perform for friends and family in basements, living rooms, and around campfires. “Campfire Caravan” celebrates the American tradition of gathering communities around music.
Following three critically acclaimed full-length studio albums (Songs From The Stoop, Respect The Van, City Painted Gold), the five-piece string band disrupts the traditional album cycle and focuses their 2017/2018 release schedule on a series of strategically released songs. On Sept. 8, 2017, The Brothers Comatose releases a sun-soaked new single “Don’t Make Me Get Up And Go” produced by indie-rock legend John Vanderslice. Channeling harmony vanguards The Beach Boys, “Don’t Make Me Get Up And Go” is a nod to the delicate dance between two friends and trusting fate to either bring them romantically together or not. With lyrics written by the band’s tour manager Joe Pacini, lead singer Ben Morrison lends his crooning baritone to the fast-paced, feel good song.
“Going into the studio with Vanderslice was all about capturing the moment on analog tape,” says Ben. “We set out to record in a way we’ve never previously attempted. We did it live with all of us playing in the same room as if we were performing on stage. Vanderslice really understood the sonic landscape we were going for. He’s really a super producer, being a musician who has cut a lot of records of his own and produced albums by many great artists.”
The Brothers Comatose entered Vanderslice’s Tiny Telephone (San Francisco) studio with drafts of “Don’t Make Me Get Up And Go.” After working out the verses and chorus in the studio, bassist Gio Benedetti came up with the three-part harmony bridge. Vanderslice had the trio of Ben, his brother Alex Morrison, and Gio, head into the studio’s echo chamber with its five-second delay, and the boys did what they do best. They sang their hearts out, and the result is sublime.
The Brothers Comatose is comprised of brothers Ben Morrison (guitar, vocals) and Alex Morrison (banjo, vocals), Gio Benedetti (bass, vocals), Philip Brezina (violin), and Ryan Avellone (mandolin). When they’re not headlining The Fillmore for a sold-out show or appearing at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, the band is out on the road performing across America, Canada, Australia, and hosting their very own music festival, Comatopia. In 2018, The Brothers Comatose will travel to Asia for a month of cultural music exchange and education with American Music Abroad, a program directed by the State Department.
The Lil Smokies
With their roots submerged in the thick buttery mud of traditional bluegrass, The Lil Smokies have sonically blossomed into a leading player in the progressive acoustic sphere, creating a new and wholly unique, melody driven sound of their own. The quintet, from Missoula, MT, has been hard at work, writing, touring and playing to an ever-growing fan base for the past 6 years. The fruits of their labor recently culminating with wins at the 2016 International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Momentum Award for Best Band and at the 2015 Telluride Bluegrass Festival band competition. In 2013 the band also won The Northwest String Summit Band Competition. With a unique blend of traditional bluegrass, newgrass, innumerable unique originals, sheer raw energy, and exquisite musicianship, The Lil Smokies weave seamlessly through genres, leaving behind melodies you’ll be singing to yourself for days and a jaw you’ll have to pick up off the floor. This five-piece bluegrass ensemble features Andy Dunnigan (dobro), Scott Parker (upright bass), Matt Cornette (banjo), Jake Simpson (fiddle) and Matt Rieger (guitar).
815 V St. NW
Washington, DC, 20001
815 V St. NW
Washington, DC, 20001