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Taking a listen

by Ryan Snyder

Distrails

— Virginia Creeper

Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jared Draughon has made his impression known across multiple regionally successful acts. Formerly of Chapel Hill’s Classic Case and currently fronting the visually exciting orchestral-rock outfit Telescreen, his side project Distrails (www.myspace.com/distrails) with Bitsy Pina represents another step removed from his hard-rock roots. There’s no denying the fact that Draughon has an evocatively stunning voice; the issue of how he applies it on Virginia Creeper, however, is a bit stickier. At times it is crisp and concise, while still preserving its distinctive modal ebbs and flows. The urgent build and release of “Broken English” stands out as a shining example of the album’s primary motive; layers upon layers of classically-textured keys and strings accented by rock rhythms, with Draughon’s vocals as the centerpiece. More characteristic of Virginia Creeper, however, is widespread overindulgence in vocal ornamentation that frequently overshadows the deeply emotional message behind the album with blunt tedium. “Critical Mass” begins with such noble intent — sorrowful, minimalistic piano balladry with striking balance — before faltering into the same aimless melisma that proliferates across nearly every track (save, of course, the expressive instrumental “Attractive Nuisance”). There is redemption, for what Virginia Creeper it lacks in balance, it makes up for with its arresting musicianship and affecting mood. If that is, you are able to overlook a bit of droning vocalise.

Dexter Romweber Duo

— Ruins of Berlin

The Flat Duo Jets documentary Two Headed Cow wasn’t just a biopic on one of the most significant acts ever to come out of North Carolina; it was a staging point for the next great, Dexter Romweber (www.ruraltone.com/dex) album. Many of the same artists who gushed over the influential punkrockabilly pioneer have found their way onto Ruins of Berlin, an album that’s sprung directly from Romweber’s own library of musical rarities and classics. It opens with a pulpy surfabilly jam between Romweber and Southern Culture on the Skids’ Rick Miller that doesn’t seem to serve much purpose other than to get Miller’s name on the packaging. It’s an enjoyable listen, however, much like the rest of the duets. The album’s high point comes on Romweber’s take of “Love Letters” alongside Chan Marshall of Cat Power, a song most famously performed by Ketty Lester and last heard from on the Blue Velvet soundtrack. Marshall’s sensual, smoky voice pairs well with Romweber’s country-goth baritone, though her presence is so captivating that it makes the context of her appearance an afterthought. Romweber growls though Gene Roland’s “Lonesome Train” punctuated by support from X’s Xerene Cervenka, while Neko Case shows up on the wistful “Still Around” to wrap up the cameo parade. The title track “Ruins of Berlin” itself is pulled straight from the song Marlene Dietrich sung in the 1948 classic A Foreign Affair, though it’s given the distinctly darker treatment that’s simply classic Dex. As he begins to put his raucous Duo days behind him, Ruins of Berlin makes a good case that Romweber is more than just another coulda-made-itbig musician from Chapel Hill and that his best days may still be ahead.

55/100 73/100 For a chance to have your band’s CD reviewed, mail it to: YES! Weekly, 5500 Adams Farm Lane, Suite 204, Greensboro, NC 27407. ATTN: Ryan

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