Album Review: Real People, Great Radio Vol. 2

Indie by definition and indie in spirit, Real People, Great Radio Vol. 2 is a compilation featuring Asheville musical artists. Curated, sponsored and put together by community radio station AshevilleFM 103.3, the album was made with the assistance of Citizen Vinyl and Drop of Sun Studios.

Some of the sessions are self-produced, and some feature the production skills of Citizen Vinyl head Gar Ragland. Most of the ten tracks are studio recoridngs, but two of the tracks document live performances. The music is predictably varied. Pilgrim Party Girl’s “WPPG” is a spare, electronic work. Wagging (a group featuring Harvest Records co-owner Mark Capon) is featured on “Marigold” a delightful and understated slice of pop featuring a strong melody and fetching vocals; it’s among the most tuneful and accessible cuts n the collection.

Milli Mo (Malik Simon) serves up some languorous, downtempo hip hop with “Sesh To.” Things take a wonderfully avant garde turn with “Wind Cults” from the Lion/Naucke/Nguyen Trio; as abstract as the recording is, it draws the listener in with its sweeping sonics and hypnotic percussion. Tina & Her Pony showcases the crystalline vocals of Tina Collins; her classic country approach on “Soul Child” is a thing of beauty.

The first instance of real rock on the set is “Things I Should Have Said” from Tongues of Fire; yelping vocals and a pile-driving rhythm add up to an energetic and impassioned punk that captures the live vibe in a studio setting. Another avant-garde performance – this time captured live and without post-production overdubs – is Kris Gruda’s skronky, atonal “Tk05.” Fascinating to be sure, but not for the faint of heart.

Cave Grave recorded their death metal/noise/sludge track “Only the Infinite Remain” at Static Age, one of Asheville’s downtown record stores. Harsh vocals and shards of feedback characterize the brief track. From there it’s some clip-clop country from Jessie & the Jinx. Their “Cheaters Waltz” is either a parody of a particular kind of c&w or a skilled example of the real thing. (You decide; I can’t be sure.) Scattered among the tracks in multiple pieces is “The Sewing Machine” by Farewell Phoenix; it’s atmospheric and spooky, with a placid and mesmerizing ambient character that suggests a Brian Eno influence.

Wonderfully eclectic, Real People, Great Radio Vol. 2 underscores just how diverse the music scene in Western North Carolina truly is (and it does so while steering clear of jam bands!) Kudos to everyone involved with the project, designed in part as a fundraising initiative for AshevilleFM.