What is most attractive about the latest recording from Buncombe Turnpike are the four story songs drawn from real characters and events in and around the group’s homebase of Buncombe County, North Carolina. Those four come from bassist Tom Godleski. This is not new territory for him. Several years ago, he recorded a solo album of songs he’d written based on stories that locals and relatives had given him.
On this recording, he gives us the comical tale of taking his northern cousin to his first old-time music gathering, and watching as he gets in a dance-off with a local called “Chicken Man.” Then there is his solemn ode to “Kenny Hess,” a local boy who died in Iraq. That stands side-by-side with “Uncle Clarence,” the halting and quickly-paced story of a WWII vet who tries to live peacefully, but struggles. Rounding out the quartet, we hear of “Zephilia’s Dream” and the sad real-time events that follow. Songs such as these speak to community and bore straight to the heart of everyday life, making them instantly engaging.
Of equal quality are two originals from guitarist Evan Swink. “I Can’t Wait,” is a song of longing to get home, mixing a patter song chorus with a loping, relaxed music base. The other, “Heartbroken, Lonely And Blue,” starts slow and seemingly pensive, but then kicks to a higher gear, changing the mood. In both cases, the melodies are kind of quirky and interesting, and the wordplay is very good. “I Can’t Wait” stands out a bit more, for though it is less cohesive than “Heartbroken….” its overall charm is undeniable.
The remaining eight, all of them original, being solid if not overwhelming in both writing and presentation, have their moments. Were they the main focus, this would be an average album. Godleski’s four real-life sketches and Swink’s two enjoyable songs, however, lift it a couple of notches. (Buncombe Turnpike, 710 Riverview Church Rd., Asheville, NC 28806, www.buncombeturnpike.com.)BW