Category Archives: North Carolina Music

Watch Short Film w/NC’s Jeffrey Dean Foster’s Music

Longtime BLURT fave and North Carolina indie rock scene mainstay also working on soundtrack for forthcoming executive-produced Scorcese film.

By Fred Mills

We’ve written about Winston-Salem artist Jeffrey Dean Foster often enough in the past (do the proverbial website search for recent and earlier coverage). Suffice to say he’s one of our North Carolina heroes, an indie rock/Americana mainstay whose work continues to inspire each time out.

Film director Alex A. Klein has served up a short film that features Foster’s music throughout that is particularly timely, and timeless. We hope you’ll take a look/listen. The description of Klein’s clip is as follows:

“A short film inspired by and containing Jeffrey Dean Foster’s songs “I Will Understand,” and “Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts,” from his album, “The Arrow.” A face-off and reconciliation of selves.

Starring Julianne Harper, who choreographed her own badass moves. Conceptualized, produced, directed and edited by Alex A Klein. Cinematography and overall awesomeness/patience by Mitch Perrin. Stedicam operation by Jonathan Pfundstein. Body double for Julianne by Mariah Perrin. First A.D. by Annie Dillon, who literally lent me the shirt off her back. Overall help and moral support on our Trade St shoot by Ella Klein. A big Thank You to the following downtown WS/NC establishments for lending us their space: The Wherehouse Art Hotel, Test Pattern, Mary’s Gourmet Diner and Dye Pretty. Filmed in Winston-Salem, NC.”


Foster’s not resting on his laurels, either. He informs us, “I’ve started compiling songs for a new record and spent last year writing and recording the entire sooundtrack for Abundant Acreage Available starring Amy Ryan and executive produced by Martin Scorcese.”

More details as they are revealed. Easily some of the most impressive news about the Tar Heel music scene in years, period. Check him out: http://www.jeffreydeanfoster.com/
https://www.facebook.com/jeffreydeanfostermusic/

Track Premiere: 6 String Drag “Waste of Time”

Ace tune by the gutsy North Carolina band taken from smokin’ new album, due out in early March. (Pictured above, L-R: Luis Rodriguez, Kenny Roby, Dan Davis, Rob Keller)

By Blurt Staff

Americana fans with long memories know well the name 6 String Drag: the hard-twanging Raleigh (NC)-by-way-of-Clemson (SC) outfit that helped usher in the golden era of alt-country in the early/mid ‘90s, predating both Ryan Adams’ Whiskeytown and scene bible No Depression. And although the members went their separate ways in 1998, 6 String Drag wound up reuniting in 2014 and released an acclaimed comeback album in early 2015.

Indeed, Roots Rock ‘N’ Roll (Royal Potato Family) was reviewed here at BLURT, our editor hailing the mix of power pop, rockabilly-esque twang, and bluesy soul: “It lives up to its title in every sense of the word—it’s rootsy as hell, and it’ll rock your ass off.. Maturity means you get to do a few things you didn’t quite have the skills or savvy to do 20 years earlier, and it also means you and the folks around you get to savor things because the moments of now tend to hover, deliciously, even while the memories of then continue to linger.” (Go HERE to listen to a track we premiered here in 2015.)

Resuming operations clearly gave the band a sense of momentum, and now they’ve got a smokin’ followup to RRNR due on digital, CD, and vinyl on March 9 via the Schoolkids Records label (formerly Second Motion and, full disclosure, our sister business). Titled Top of the World, it’s 11 tracks of pure 6SD, produced by – as was RRNR – Jason Merritt. By way of preview we are very proud to unveil the track “Waste of Time.” Check it out below; we guarantee it won’t be a waste of your time.

Guitarist/vocalist Kenny Roby—who is joined by co-founding bassist Rob Keller, plus guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Luis Rodriguez and drummer Dan Davis, plus guests John Ginty on keys and Matt Douglas on horns—notes that Top of the World “isn’t quite the almost live and somewhat frantic approach, like 1997’s [Steve Earle-produced] High Hat. And Roots Rock ’N’ Roll was really intentionally recorded like a ’50s and ’60s record. This record isn’t super layered but it isn’t always just a raw 4 piece approach. It just depended on the song — we just took it song by song in what we felt the song needed or wanted.”

Roby and Keller both acknowledge that the group has always been influenced by artists like The Band, Van Morrison, the Kinks, Rolling Stones, and Beatles, and that if one listens closely to the new album, traces of Rockpile, Thin Lizzy and Mott the Hoople might even be detected as well. As Keller explains, “We listen to a lot of different kinds of music, and of course that rubs off on us. We get on this wavelength where we will get into things at the same time. Recently, it’s been on the pop rockier side from ‘60s Kinks to ‘70s glam rock to ‘80s punk, power pop. We probably would’ve made more records like this had we stuck together all these years because we’ve always been into this type of music.”

But wait, as the saying goes, there’s more: The aforementioned High Hat, which was originally released on producer Earle’s E-Squared label, is getting a 20th anniversary reissue next month, on Jan. 11 (also via Schoolkids)—including as a limited/numbered white vinyl edition. So those Americana fans with long memories mentioned in the first paragraph will have even more reason to celebrate, as High Hat remains an acknowledged touchstone of the genre.

More details on the band and 2018 plans at their official website or at their Facebook page (where, incidentally, they recently announced being part of a special New Year’s Eve show in Raleigh).

Worth additional note: the above-referenced 6SD reunion came about after Roby invited Keller to play with him at a solo show promoting his 2013 solo album Memories & Birds (reviewed HERE), and they wound up doing some old 6SD faves. Around the same time BLURT published an in-depth interview with Roby, and you can read it HERE.

 

New David Childers Profile via Southern Songs & Stories Podcast

By Fred Mills

Since the BLURT braintrust hails from North Carolina we are partial to Tar Heel musicians – among them, the mighty David Childers (aka “the rock ‘n’ roll lawyer”). The gifted singer/songwriter, author, and visual artist is the subject of a new podcast episode from our friends at Southern Songs and Stories, who have been responsible for a number of superb audio and video profiles of our fellow Carolinians (recently on video: the Jon Stickley Trio).

Below is the link to the new podcast about Childers and his new Don Dixon-produced album, Run Skeleton Run. It’s described by SS&S thusly:

“In this episode, we explore the world of North Carolina singer songwriter, painter and former lawyer David Childers, showcasing his music and some of his influences, along with interviews of David, son Robert, label head Dolph Ramseur, producer Don Dixon, Avett Brother bassist Bob Crawford, and writer, musician and WNCW radio host Carol Rifkin.”

Link to: You Don’t Have To Say So Much: The David Childers Story

SS&S’s Joe Kendrick adds that coming up for them is a podcast that details “the history of Green Acres Music Hall, the little musical Shangri-La that could, which brought luminaries like David Grisman, John Hartford, Newgrass Revival, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Rodney Crowell and many more to a quiet corner of Rutherford County NC, from around 1979 to 1999.” We’ll be looking forward to that, Joe!

Check Out Jon Stickley Trio Interview with Southern Songs And Stories

North Carolina outfit combines folk, bluegrass, prog, psych, and gypsy jazz to create something unique and otherworldly.

By Fred Mills

A few months ago the Jon Stickley Trio, Asheville’s premiere prog-grass/blue-gressive (both my terms, take your pick), dropped their latest full-length, Maybe Believe, to across-the-board critical acclaim. Since then the guitar/violin/percussion group has been steadily touring—their jammy, fusion-rooted sound makes them a mainstay of the festival circuit—and along the way there have been a number of Stickley Trio-related interesting and catchy videos to pop up. Among my faves:

Maybe Believe teaser/trailer video, released just prior to the album’s official streeting.

“Microbruise,” a hilarious, faux-variety show clip directed by Andrew Vasco.

“Play People,” live in Denver 7/7/17 (w/guest Andy Thorn).

More recently, the ever-diligent music archivists of the Southern Songs And Stories documentary series, Joe Kendrick and Aaron Morell, have put together a Stickley Trio segment in which flatpicking virtuoso Stickley, violinist Lyndsay Pruett and drummer Patrick Armitage take a quick breather from their SpringSkunk Music Festival performances and talk with Kendrick and Morell about their career in music thus far. You can watch the 36-minute video here, or check out an excerpt via the 3-minute teaser, below; both include some dynamic performance segments. There will also be an extended podcast of the band interview available soon.

If the Stickley Trio comes anywhere near your town, run, don’t walk, to the box office and grab your tickets – I guarantee this is a band not to be missed in concert.

An Interrupted Conversation with The Jon Stickley Trio | Southern Songs and Stories | Grae Skye Creative from Aaron Morrell on Vimeo.

N.C. Musicians Record Tribute to Cancer-Stricken James Olin Oden

Schedule session for Oct. 29 at Raleigh studio.

By Fred Mills

With both BLURT and our two sister businesses (the Schoolkids Records chain and record label) based in the Triangle, NC, area, it’s a given that we feel pretty strongly about supporting the regional musicians and bands who we work and hang out with — and who make our lives all the more meaningful. So we were obviously saddened when the news arrived in May that Raleigh musician James Olin Oden had been hospitalized with a rare form of cancer known at Metastatic Synovial Sarcoma.

Troubadour Oden, incidentally, played Irish flute at BLURT/Schoolkids owner Stephen Judge’s wedding ceremony, and he’s also performed and recorded with the Floating Children (check out the tracks “Party Animal Cannibal” and “Valentine Unsent,” which showcased James on flute, and view a video here). The much-loved N.C. musician is well-versed in Scottish, Irish, and English songs, and has been a member of Friendly Fiddlers, the Gypsy Rovers, and the Irish Wolfhounds. His Deeper Dance album was released in 2016. (Below, listen to the title track, and also watch him perform “Friend of the Devil” in 2015.)

Oden’s musical community responded to his medical crisis immediately, as Billy Warden, of Floating Children fame, puts it, “by turning his room at Wake Medical Center into a love-fest and impromptu jam session.” Now Warden reports that the jam session will be transforming into a recording session next Sunday, Oct. 29. That’s when Floating Children and sundry friends will enter Raleigh’s Thread Audio with producer Michael Graziano to cut “a thunderous tribute” written for Oden, “Boom Boom Boom (In The Emergency Room).”

The recording will also be filmed for a video to accompany the release of the song, and upon release it will include details on supporting cancer patients and organizations working to find a cure for cancer.

Watch BLURT for updates on all this, including when the song and video are ready for the public.

Along with Warden, musicians slated to pitch in, schedules pending, are Jeffro Holshouser (also of Hank Sinatra), drummer Jody Maxwell (formerly of A Number of Things and The Sex Police), lead guitarist Sam ‘Sammy Doddy’ McDonald (Uglyography), bassist/key-tarist Matt Thomas (Uglyography), go-go dancer Tracey Brown, members of The Veldt and Hank Sinatra, Demon Eye’s Larry Burlison, horn players Peter Lamb and David Wright, John Howie Jr., Rose Higgins, and Caroline Mamoulides. (Pictured below: Warden and the Floating Children)

 

FLAT DUO JETS – Wild Wild Love

Album: Wild Wild Love

Artist: Flat Duo Jets

Label: Daniel 13

Release Date: October 20, 2017

www.daniel13.com

The Upshot: Dexter, Crow, and even Tone raving things up for your edification via an exhaustive exploration of the Jets’ earliest recordings.

BY FRED MILLS

For North Carolina indie music devotees—particularly the Chapel Hill contingent—it was an electrifying affirmation: the MTV Cutting Edge broadcast of a segment the video channel had filmed in February of 1985, featuring one Dexter Romweber, attired in cop hat and rebel-with-a-definite-cause leather jacket and slurping noisily (booze? tea? Diet Pepsi?) from a tin cup tethered to his jacket with a chain, giving the film crew a tour of his digs, at most a 10’ by 10’ storage shed located in the back yard of his mother’s Carrboro abode, but crammed with enough reclaimed furniture and record albums to qualify as a “pad.” That Romweber called it The Mausoleum wasn’t ironic. If, say, a homeless person stumbled in there after too much antifreeze, crawled under the makeshift bed, and expired, it wasn’t altogether inconceivable that the corpse wouldn’t be discovered until Dex or one of the pot-smoking pals who gathered there to spin obscure ‘50s and ‘60s rockabilly late into the night happened to be casting about for an errant platter or pillow.

Feel free to revisit the MTV segment at the YouTube link above; there are also plenty of live clips of Romweber’s Flat Duo Jets combo (both as a duo and as a three-piece) to seek out. Meanwhile, sonic origins arrive via Wild Wild Love, a two-CD version of that outrageously cool Wild Wild Love limited edition Flat Duo Jets vinyl box set (two LPs and a 10”) released for Record Store Day 2017. Included is the entire Mark Bingham-produced Flat Duo Jets LP that the Athens-based Dog Gone label originally released in 1989—Dog Gone was overseen by one Jefferson Holt, who now helms Daniel 13, a much-respected North Carolina books/music/film outfit—along with that album’s cassette EP precursor, Flat Duo Jets In Stereo (1985, Dolphin Records, recorded by Josh Grier and Steve Gronback), plus no less than a bakers-dozen outtakes from the ’89 LP.

Whattaya get? Well, of course there is “Wild, Wild Lover,” which they would also perform during a potentially career-making 1990 performance on Late Night With David Letterman, with FDJ fan Paul Shaffer happily sitting in. Moody tiki-surf twanger instrumental, “Madagasgar,” one of only two Dex originals on the Dog Gone album, is another obvious highlight, as is a revved-up instro take of Louis Prima’s “Sing Sing Sing,” wherein drummer Crow lays down a jungle beat as throbbin’ as any Saturday afternoon Tarzan flick soundtrack you’d care to mention. Plus, all six tracks from that In Stereo cassette are represented, from the riotous Lieber & Stoller classic “Riot In Cell Block #9” to a sunny (and, for Romweber, remarkably restrained) cover of Buddy Holly’s “Think It Over” to an early Romweber original, “Theme For Dick Fontaine,” a twangy instro thumper not unlike the above-mentioned Prima track (and a tune often used to warm up the crowd at gigs back in the day). Listening to these now, over three decades later, the visceral-to-the-point-of-unhinged FDJ energy remains palpable; if you close your eyes, it’s not hard to imagine being at one of the band’s still-legendary early shows.

All those, plus the Mark Bingham-selected outtakes—among them, surf raveup “Penetration 1,” so electrifying here it’s hard to understand why it didn’t make the final cut for the original LP; “Harlem Nocturne,” which Dex and Crow would revive for the second Jets album, 1991’s Go Go Harlem Baby; and another version of “Wild, Wild Lover”—make for more than just an early DexRom musical snapshot. Wild Wild Love is also a history lesson, one boasting key performances that influenced everyone from the White Stripes to the Black Keys, and many, many more.

Now, before all you wannabe speculators make a mad dash to eBay or Discogs to unload your RSD 2017 FDJ WWL, be alerted that the box set is, in the parlance, a package too cool to dump. Note that as an added bonus, the Wild Wild Love CD includes a link to download a 78-page digital PDF color booklet filled with vintage show flyers and photographs, plus liner-note essays by Mark Bingham, Josh Grier, and music critic David Menconi (whose exhaustive history of the band would be, if eventually expanded to include Dexter’s entire colorful/ongoing history, as book-worthy as Menconi’s earlier biography of lapsed Tar Heel Ryan Adams). But said booklet was also originally a gorgeous 12” x 12” centerpiece of the vinyl box that really deserves to be held and admired. Yours truly was actually present at several of the shows visually represented in the booklet, Dex ‘n’ Crow caught in full flight at Charlotte’s Milestone Club by ace photographer Kent Thompson. (BLURT contributor Marty Perez also has shots in the booklet.) So I can attest to the, um, for lack of a better term, candid nature of these FDJ gigs, which might include, on any given occasion, Romweber bull-dozing into the crowd, stripping down to his skivvies, or simply stretching his shirt around the top of his head to stanch the flow of sweat.

Think of both iterations of Wild Wild Love as loving testimonials and crucial documents; the 2CD also boasts impressionistic art by Phil Plank, exclusive to that version, further indication of the Daniel 13 team’s intention to present the Flat Duo Jets as one of North Carolina’s more unique musical origin stories. Something tells me that more than a couple of heads are already nodding at the notion of adding a special Romweber wing to the Tar Heel State’s official music archives…

DOWNLOAD: “Penetration 1” and “Bring It On Home” (outtakes); “Theme for Dick Fontaine” (In Stereo); “Sing Sing Sing,” “Wild, Wild Lover,” “Madagascar” (Flat Duo Jets)

NC’s 6 String Drag w/PledgeMusic Campaign for Reissue & New Album

North Carolina twangers prepping vinyl reissue of classic album while planning out a new studio record as well for a spring ’18 re;ease/ Above photo by Michael Traister.

By Fred Mills

Cutting to the chase: Raleigh, NC, combo 6 String Drag has long been a favorite throughout the BLURT diaspora, dating back to the hard-twanging Americana combo’s ‘90s heyday, which included a Steve Earle-produced gem from 1997, High Hat. Much more recently, the group resumed operations following a lengthy hiatus, resulting in a wave of terrific live notices as well as considerable praise for 2015 comeback album Roots Rock ‘n’ Roll (Royal Potato Family), which was stuffed to the gills with choice power pop, rockabilly, ‘50s-ish rock, and stately blues.

The group is soldiering on with a twinned campaign to get High Hat re-released for the first time on vinyl (a 20th anniversary, limited edition white wax at that) and to release a brand new studio effort in March. Over at the 6 String Drag PledgeMusic page you can view the specifics along with the various tiers of involvement for pledgers, ranging from springing from digital, CD, and vinyl versions of High Hat, to all manner of rare memorabilia and house concerts fans can avail themselves of.

Do yourself a favor and check out these guys—our friends—and consider jumping in. By way of full disclosure, the High Hat reissue will be appearing under the label name of our sister business, Schoolkids Records (formerly Second Motion). Hopefully that gives you a sense of what a kickass band we think 6 String Drag has always been, and continues to be. It’s clobberin’ time, kids.

HISS GOLDEN MESSENGER — Hallelujah Anyhow

Album: Hallelujah Anyhow

Artist: Hiss Golden Messenger

Label: Merge

Release Date: September 22, 2017

http://www.mergerecords.com

The Upshot: It’s all quite pleasant, nicely played and sung and recorded, but as the album title itself telegraphs, perhaps a little distant.

BY JENNIFER KELLY

MC Taylor’s low-key but soulful Americana outfit hits a particularly breezy stride in this seventh full length. Song titles like “Lost in the Darkness” and “Harder Rain,” hint at darker material, but the tone is resolutely positive, uplifted by sharp uptempo guitar work and rousing choruses. The 3 a.m. disconsolate-ness of early albums like Haw and the nearly-lost Bad Debt (which after all included a song called “Jesus Shot Me in the Head”) has dissipated and Taylor sounds unworried, if not downright happy.

Taylor works with mostly the same crew as before, the two Cook brothers from Megafaun and drummer Darren Jessee, forming the main band. Fellow Dead aficionado Josh Kaufman sits in on guitar this time, instead of Ryan Gustafson. Together they find worn-in, comfortable grooves that swing and swagger modestly, with a certain amount of decorum. Taylor himself is the focus, however, with his slippery, note-bending phrases that snake around the main melody with slides and bends and flourishes.

As is often the case, the strongest stuff comes near the album’s end, with blues-rocking “Domino (Time Will Tell” channeling gospel fervor and roadhouse horn lines in a celebration (sort of) of touring life. The guitar solo here is particularly fine. Slower and more contemplative, but just as good, is “Caledonia, My Love” where Taylor’s voice flickers like a flame in the night breeze, mournfully ruminating on life and lust and love.

It’s all quite pleasant, nicely played and sung and recorded, but perhaps a little distant. These tunes flow by like sunny afternoons and when they’re done you can’t remember much.

DOWNLOAD: “Domino (Time Will Tell)”, “Caledonia, My Love”

 

 

 

HAPPY ABANDON – Facepaint LP

Album: Facepaint

Artist: Happy Abandon

Label: Schoolkids Records

Release Date: August 25, 2017

www.schoolkidsrecords.com/label

The Upshot: Ornate baroque pop one moment and huge anthemic soundscapes the next from a remarkably gifted and promising young NC band. Read our interview HERE.

BY FRED MILLS

In their short-but-fruitful existence to date, Chapel Hill’s Happy Abandon have garnered a reputation as a forceful act that weds dramatic performance to a nakedly emotional aesthetic. So much so, that the owner of the Schoolkids Records label – formerly Second Motion; home to Tommy Keene, The Veldt, and Bettie Serveert; and, full disclosure, sister business to BLURT – was soon convinced that the young trio would be the perfect flagship artist for the newly-christened label. It wasn’t a frivolous move, either, and if you caught their single “If I Stare” last year, you already have a sense of the group’s ornate, cinematic pop mastery (listen to it HERE at their Soundcloud page). By way of additional full disclosure, I fuckin’ loved ‘em the moment I heard ‘em, and this was well before Schoolkids’ Stephen Judge had signed them to the label.

On the resulting debut, lyrical introspection and high-energy extroversion (read: loud) get woven tightly together, with catharsis the objective. This is not to lump Happy Abandon among traditionally theatrical bands, many of whom confuse billboard-sized pronouncements with profundity, an aesthetic misstep that many prog, metal, and even emo groups also make. On the 10 songs that populate Facepaint, the group offers up grand, sweeping melodies, soaring/anthemic vocals, and manic explosions of energy offset by solitude-conjuring denouements, and the overall effect is utterly exhilarating. Opening track “Ivory Bound” unfurls via pirouetting acoustic guitar and piano, just a hint of percussion—then comes the swell of a string section, which crescendos lustily then swoops directly into “Beneath Our Feet,” a hectic rush of searing guitars, convulsive drums, and pounding ivories as vocalist Peter Vance—in a deliciously androgynous voice—croons, then sneers, then snarls, then pleads. On “Take Me,” this light/heavy strategy further showcases the players’ strengths as the song gradually rises in volume and tempo until, about four minutes in, the listener finds him- or herself cocooned in a glorious wash of sound, guitars, percussion, and keys, as the massed vocals strive for, and attain, full-choir status. (This band does love its vocal arrangements.)

Elsewhere, Happy Abandon demonstrate their versatility at ballads (the ornate baroque pop of “Choice”), showtunes (“Stop Taking Care of Me,” a dark-but-dramatic narrative chronicling a lover’s steadily-rising addiction: “I’ve watched you becoming the monster inside of you/ It has the same eyes as you/ But it can’t love the way that you do… You can’t kill what’s killing you/ If you’re feeding it too”), even orchestrally-inclined art pop (the aforementioned “If I Stare,” an extravagant waltz which boasts violins, cello, flute, and even Peter Bjorn and John-styled whistling).

To their credit, these three men (singer/guitarist Vance, drummer Jake Waits, bassist Justin Ellis; on most tracks they are joined by keyboardist Alex Thompson, who also conducts the strings) don’t deploy their dynamics in rote or template fashion. These are fully-formed rock songs with emotional interior lives that would also work stripped-down or with a full orchestra. Ultimately, Facepaint is a remarkable debut from an uncommonly gifted and promising young band.

Consumer note: The vinyl for Facepaint comes in either standard black or eye-popping multicolor splatter vinyl. And for colored wax, it’s a solid pressing; collectors frequently find themselves complaining about the audio quality of color vinyl, but they won’t have to this time out.

DOWNLOAD: “If I Stare,” “Beneath Our Feet”

YES, IT IS EXQUISITE: Floating Action

On a remarkable new album one encounters all-over-the-map alchemical brilliance from the Black Mountain sonic savant.

BY JOHN SCHACHT

Soul man. Funk fan. Dub star. Vintage rock ‘n’ roll master.

Seth Kauffman’s been fêted with all these sobriquets over the past decade in Floating Action, the one-man studio blender where the Black Mountain native conjures up his self-described “lo-fi North Carolina funk.” But is Is It Exquisite? really, well, exquisite? Though Kauffman is likely referring to a host of human experiences with that query (your music experience definitely being one of them), the answer here is a resounding and unimpeachable, hell, yes.

Rather than the rote nostalgia such sonic touchstones often yield, Kauffman’s songs hum with the vibrancy of both true believer and radical alchemist. Mile-wide grooves, catchy melodies and dubby textures are cannily crafted together to shade the vulnerable and occasionally spiritual subject matter in sunny fare — “I’m a soul lying naked and scared,” Kauffman confesses on “My Ticket Out of Here,” as fuzzy keys, a fat bottom end and boom-bap beats eventually flower into a blast of guitar distortion that’s more joyous release than check-out-these-chops solo.

Those traits should sound familiar to Floating Action devotees, and these 11 tracks don’t veer far from the sonic foundations that Kauffman finds so durable; by that yardstick change remains gradual in the Floating Action world. But to focus solely on the nuance is to miss the point almost entirely here. These solid structures allow Kauffman to graft pretty much anything he can think of onto these songs, and that’s something that he seems to somehow get better at with each passing LP. (As a rare twangy example of his songs’ malleability, check out the free download from 2008, Live at the Grey Eagle.)

And so it goes with Is It Exquisite? Vintage Tonto-like synths and chopped-up beats highlight the pleading opener “Don’t Desert Me,” the soulful “Seek Then I Found” seems to resurrect Teenie Hodges’ magic guitar fills, and Kauffman even throws some vintage scratching onto “The Silent One,” transforming it from lonely hymn to Sedgwick Avenue hoe-down. A subtle, swirling mellotron haze accompanies the catchy choruses of “My Blood Is Bright Red,” while disc-closer “Controlled Burn” offers a master class in dubby texturing (its 11-minute run-time might be the LP’s one overindulgence). Even a couple of finger-picked acoustic numbers—”Last of the Wild Cards” and “Won’t Be Long”—transform into something greater via chopped beats or subversive syncopation.

Kauffman would probably (and rightly) bridle at the “musician’s musician” tag—though accompanying the latest publicity are imprimaturs from past collaborators Jim James, Dan Auerbach and Angel Olsen, among others. After all, musicians shouldn’t be the only ones spellbound by Floating Action’s alchemical brilliance. These songs are, simply put, great songs, arguably the best Floating Action set yet, and their adaptability to Kauffman’s studio R&D testifies to their fundamental versatility.

Will a larger audience ever catch up? Who knows. For now, and again, the lucky ones are just floating along in Kauffman’s idyllic future past. Come, join us.

Consumer/collector note: For vinyl nuts, in addition to a standard black vinyl release, about 200 copies were pressed on colored vinyl, and colors were inserted randomly in sleeves so fans didn’t know what color they were getting until they opened the package. There is also a cassette edition via Baby Tooth. Those who preordered Exquisite from PIAPTK or Baby Gas Mask Records also received a bonus lathe cut 7” picture disc of Floating Action covering Pepi Ginsberg’s “The Waterline” and a 12×18″ poster.