taking a listen
reviews of local & state music C’Ds
THE MANTRAS — Dharland
The five or six people who saw the criminally-underrated jam band send-up with Les Claypool, National Lampoon’s Electric Apricot, might remember the running gag that everyone in the band sang and was credited with lead vocals. Considering the cast, it wasn’t far off in its loving treatment of the music scene it roasts. Greensboro’s own jam band-in-residence the Mantras credit four of their five members with vocals and much like the real-life stars of the fictitious mind-blowers Electric Apricot, they use their idiosyncratic arrangement to throw down in ways most band can’t. Granted, much like Claypool himself, most of the vocals on the Mantras’ newest cut Dharland are an acquired taste. You either “get” Keith Allen’s frenetic, crazy-mountaincoot inflection on “Five Roads” and “Response Ability” or you don’t. Either way, it’s the band’s willingness to be a little bit different that make them so enjoyable. Well, maybe that and the sweltering jams found within Dharland are equally responsible. Fans will be pleased to find “Five Roads” and “Magillicuddy” finally on something other than a noisy AUD, but it’s their more progressive-sounding stuff that stands out here. Title track “Dharland” sees Allen and Marcus Horth exchanging scalular riffs, while Brian Tyndall’s brooding bass prefaces the jazzy quick-hitter “Sativa.” The Mantras have soul, as outlined by “Funky Jank Patrol,” and though they might not be the more conventional listener’s cup of tea, they’re quite kind to the jamophile.
LEROY POWELL & THE MESSENGERS — Atlantis
With a rich history as the guitarist for a who’s-who of Southern rockers like Shooter Jennings, Hank Williams Jr., Lynyrd Skynyrd, Dickey Betts, and Waylon Jennings, Leroy Powell’s fourth solo album manages to speak to all of those influences. Powell’s fourth full length album and first with his newest backing band the Messengers, Atlantis is a tour of every sub-genre of country in which Powell has been fortunate enough to dabble, though the result is often wooly and satisfying at the same time. Powell finds himself mimicking the fatalist themes of Dr. John’s “I Walk on Gilded Splinters” on the menacing opener “I Ain’t Human,” while oppositely exploring his own mortality on the bluesy “Evil.” Despite his overt country pedigree, Powell is even more steeped in classic rock, as the money riffs on so many tracks would attest. The melodic bridge of “Telluride” sounds so much like that of the Bands’s “The Weight” that it might be confused for a cover after a few bars. Big riffs abound on tracks like “Family Tree” and “Look Out World (I’m Comin’),” but he devotes too many tracks to diversity, such as the gospel-y “One Kiss, One Love” to really develop that side of this album’s persona. Regardless of its overwrought ambition, it’s still a fun album with plenty for classic rockers to chew on.
Leroy Powell & the Messengers will play the Blind Tiger on Saturday.
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