taking a listen

by Ryan Snyder

reviews of local & state music CDs

Possum Jenkins Collection of Bad Habits

With every new release, Possum Jenkins has further entrenched themselves as one of the more diverse Americana acts around. Can they do sad songs? Of course. How about happy ones? Check. Can they all sing and play multiple instruments? Yes to that also. The last point is central to their development thus far, as every track on their third independent release, Collection of Bad Habits, has its own personality thanks to the musical versatility of several of the members of the sextet. The threesome of Dave Willis, Nathan Turner and David Brewer are all credited with handling vocal, guitar and drum duties, with Willis throwing in a little slide for good measure, and the product is an album of rugged and thoroughly individualistic tracks. Produced by Doug Williams, the emotions behind the songs of Collection of Bad Habits is just as sundried as the performers who take up point on them. “Reidsville” is a grimacing ode drinking deeply from the Drive-By Truckers catalog, while “Don’t Tell Me” finds them at their most effectual. It’s a simplistic, stripped-down stroll through major-chord strumming. accented by Brent Buckner’s jazzy harmonica. They may be at their best, however, when they’re just a little self-effacing (“if I’da known you was gonna be here, I’da wore a cleaner shirt” on “If Ida Known”) and even a sometimes a little rueful (“bad heart, bad genes, I guess I was doomed from the start” on “Bad Genes”). There’s plenty to like about Collection of Bad Habits and with so much diversity on one album, plenty of reasons to keep a few of those habits around.


Ed e. Ruger Lights Out

More shots coming from the Ruger, and this time they’re laced with vitriol and cyanide. Greensboro rapper Ed E. Ruger’s ( third full-length individual release, Lights Out, is driven just as much by his contempt for hip-hop pretenders as it is by ganja smoke and hard-hitting beats. With an aggressive flow that’s all his own, Ruger is downright ruthless at times, attacking other MCs over everything from their online networking (“I Hate Everybody”) to their greenery preferences (“Smoke Some Weed”). “I Hate Everybody” is particularly noteworthy because of its outright tongue-in-cheek connotation, where Ruger hates on just about everyone: his enemies, his close associations and himself prefaced by a more-than-appropriate sound bite from Half Baked over a grimy backbeat. Despite all of the macho posturing that defines Lights Out, it ends on a somewhat bittersweet note on “Y’all Just Don’t Get It.” In it, the pursuit of a good buzz and a few bucks while marking his musical territory takes a backseat for a moment while Ruger lays out the discontent stemming from being a rapper of great potential without the monetary success to show for it. Lights Out is a highly blue-collar effort from Ruger, but with the kind of slick rhymes, pointed themes and thumping beats that fans have come to expect from one of the most respected underground rappers in the area.


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