Chapel Hill quartet Mipso return with new a new album, Coming Down The Mountain (April 7, 2017) -- ten songs of love and loss and forward motion, with words that sear and salve in turn, and music that invites you in to stay a while. Mipso ventures further than ever from their string-band pedigree to discover a broader Americana where classic folk-rock and modern alt-country mingle easily with Appalachian tradition.
It's an album aptly named, not only because the band finds purchase in a more pastoral sound, but also because of the stories they tell. These are songs about going somewhere or coming back, about our changing relationship to the idea of home, and about being pushed or pulled by forces bigger than us.
These North Carolinians cross a threshold too, adding drums for the first time in three LPs, and more electric instruments than ever to their four-part harmonies and powerful acoustic meld. The resulting album is a thing of wistful beauty, hopeful undercurrents, and panoramic soundscapes that impart intimacy.
Looking in from outside, Mipso didn't need to change much at all. Their 2015 album, Old Time Reverie, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard bluegrass chart despite including sounds far afield from a Flatt and Scruggs record. Just a couple years before, guitarist Joseph Terrell, fiddler Libby Rodenbough, mandolin player Jacob Sharp, and bassist Wood Robinson were in college together at UNC-Chapel Hill, where they met for the first time even with being NC natives every one.
Nashville duo 10 String Symphony began as a partnership of mutual admiration a much needed creative release valve for Rachel Baiman and Christian Sedelmyer, two 5string fiddle players and veteran sidemen of Nashville’s music scene. Rachel, a former Illinois state fiddle champion in the old time tradition, needed an outlet for the new sort of songs she was writing, while Christian, originally a classically trained violinist, now a current touring member of the Jerry Douglas Band, was looking to get in touch the impetuous spirit of the rock bands he played in before his arrival in Nashville. With the love of the 5string fiddle and its musical possibilities as its focal point, the band’s mission statement was as clear as it was expansive:
Two fiddles. Two Voices. Epic music.
And yet, “Weight of the world,” the band’s latest batch of recordings to be released on Oct. 23rd, is not at all the record one might expect from a duo of seasoned Nashville fiddlers. This is not a record of showboating no mere polished showcasing of technical virtuosity. Rather, at its core, “Weight of the world” is raw and intimate a nuanced and patient record with designs to move rather than merely impress its listeners. Rachel and Christian’s musical prowess and chemistry is certainly on display for those in the know, but listening deeply reveals that these flourishes are always in service of reaching the listener emotionally the spiritual earnestness of songcraft which keeps us perennially returning to the roots of American music.
ALL THINGS MUSIC has described the band’s’ sound as a “new take on old ideas,” a concept and tension that the duo continues to explore throughout “Weight of the World.” This is showcased on songs like “Someone to be Good For,” where a timeless fiddle melody is underscored by Rachel’s acutely personal and timely take on the search for romantic fulfillment in the midst of brokenness. Or in the searching harmonies and exploratory fiddle runs of a song like “I’m Not Lonesome” While the title may hearken back to the tradition, Christian’s haunting melodies and searching cadences bespeak of an artist that has spent as much time with Wagner and Pet Sounds era Beach Boys as he has with the Seeger brothers.
And perhaps this is what makes “Weight of the World” such a brave record: Its the soundtrack of a process a picture of a band striving to maintain the purity of purpose of the American oldtime tradition, while simultaneously stretching its limitations with unique arrangements, unflinchingly personal lyrics, and a bravely progressive melodic palette.
“Weight of the World” is a snapshot of an impetuous band in midstride oldsouls who are passionately determined to speak to our contemporary moment. From the sounds of it, this is just the beginning.
7pm doors | 8pm show | $15 adv. | $20 day of