Various Artists SceneSC Sampler Vol. 5
The cover art for the recently released SceneSC Sampler Volume 5 was snapped three years ago from the front seat of a vehicle headed for the North Carolina border, climbing steep hills at the foot of the Blue Ridge. It’s an interesting and arresting image for the local blog’s fifth and most convincing collection of Palmetto State standouts — ascending towards Asheville, one of a few Tar Heel burgs with bustling music and culture that supposedly dwarfs anything available down here. Is the driver bolting for more fertile sonic soil, or pushing north determined to prove that music south of the border is every bit as worthwhile? After almost six years spent determinedly trumpeting the best artists South Carolina has to offer, is SceneSC waving the white flag or surging ahead?
The music within — released as a free digital download and hopefully soon on CD with a poster of photos snapped along the blog’s impressive run — emphatically endorses the latter. With 24 songs, 12 of which are available for the first time, 2014’s sampler is a surprisingly cohesive listen, a testament to the lush and evocative moods conjured by many of the musicians who contributed, as well as to the thoughtful sequencing.
And though one could easily wax poetic about several choice cuts collected from recent releases — The Restoration’s sardonically rollicking “New South Blues”; Jordan Igoe’s sweeping, Nicole Atkins-esque “I Was You” — it’s the fresh ones that steal this show.
Cancellieri’s “Hold on Hurricane,” a tender and elegant choice to close things out, finds singer and songwriter Ryan Hutchens settling into reverberant complexities and unguarded emotions, like The Tallest Man on Earth working with Iron & Wine’s colorful palette. Rejectioneers’ confident and catchy “Way Too Hard” trips through brightest power-pop with whiskey-soaked intensity. And Brave Baby’s “Find You Out,” a top contender for best-in-show, repurposes the band’s soaring, synth-rich pop as the basis for an enormously lilting ballad. The keys and guitars are massive but pillowy, ably cushioning Keon Masters’ wrenching warble, an impressive change of pace from a group that has previously faltered when attempting to slow things down.
Like all of SceneSC’s samplers, this one has its lulls, moments when the music is merely pleasant and not all that engaging. But more often than not, Volume 5 finds some of this state’s most luminous talents shining more brightly than ever.
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