What we have here is an indie rock/pop/Americana trio from Chapel Hill with Jacob Sharp on mandolin, Joseph Terrell on guitar, and Wood Robinson on bass. All three sing. At one time or the other, they learned and played bluegrass and old-time, and those musical forms weave through the eleven original songs on this their third album—hence the album title: Dark Holler for their heritage, Pop for what this closely resembles.
What bluegrass or old-time there is is more a coloring, and even then not used consistantly. Banjo and fiddle are on almost every track, but only a couple of the tunes sound anything like bluegrass. The closest would probably be “Rocking Chair Blues,” taken in slow 3/4 time with a feel somewhat akin to “Let The Harvest Go To Seed” by Peter Rowan. “Get Out” has a slightly modal, descending line riff at the start that tints the folk/pop song with an old-time feel, and “Do You Want Me?” gets a bit of the bluegrass bounce. There is also a bluegrass interlude in “A Couple Acres Greener” and a touch of a country lilt to “Red Eye To Raleigh.”
Bluegrass or not, these are nice songs. The arrangements are good, as are the performances, particularly the singing. Lyrically, they break free from standard bluegrass imagery, adopting a more poetic approach. “Rocking Chair Blues,” for example, contains the lines: I listened for autumn and followed the sound / And lived off of things that fell to the ground. Perhaps not Keats or Whitman, but quite good. Similar evocative touches appear in such standouts cuts as the angst-ridden “A Couple Acres Greener,” the country rocker “Tried Too Hard,” and in the “homeward pull” of “Carolina Calling.” I’m not sure I agree with Mipso’s claims of being renegade traditionalists, but they make good music. (Robust Records, P.O. Box 16909, Chapel Hill, NC 27516, www.robustrecords.com.)BW