Mipso, “Red Eye to Raleigh”

There are about a million Carolina string bands out there in the Americana-sphere. Young, lightning-fast fingers picking or bowing four, six, eight, or twelve strings, with caramel-smooth lead vocals and seraphim-like harmonies.

This is not a bad thing…

As much as I love the variety of this type of band, I do enjoy hearing one that stands out among their brethren and sistren, and Chapel Hill based Mipso does just that.

I love the way that their instruments dance with each other, with one or another of them coming forward for a verse, then fading, to let another one have a go. The vocals are fun and accessible, with lots of stuff you don’t hear often in a roots tune.

Take “Red Eye to Raleigh” as an example (sorry, Mipso, this song should be titled, “Body with a Broken Heart”.)

The tune starts with a strummy acoustic guitar, with a slide resonator adding color. The bass comes in late in the first verse, and a mandolin boom-chuck and subtle fiddle join the crowd by the time the first chorus kicks in.

Or is that a chorus? More like an extended refrain. After another verse, a real chorus kicks in. I really like it when songwriters play with song structure in ways that draw the listener in.

This song is about a broken heart, and the dream of repairing the love that blew apart. Not an especially original idea, but the lyrical approach is.

“It feels against my nature, just put me in the zoo; I’m not a mammal that can handle getting over you”.

And when was the last time you heard something like “experimental laparoscopic cardiology” in a string band song?

This band is easy to listen to; there are a few other great tunes on their ReverbNation site. I’d recommend “A Couple Acres Greener”, and “Rocking Chair Blues” as well. Check them out at https://www.reverbnation.com/mipsomusic.

While the band does not mention it on ReverbNation, Mipso just released a new album this past April, called “Coming Down the Mountain”. You can hear some tracks and order it on their webpage, https://www.mipsomusic.com/

Emily Hackett, “Easy”

I really love simple tracks, recordings that highlight a great song and a great vocal performance, or both. I found one of these gems on Emily Hackett’s ReverbNation site, in her song “Easy”.

The recording starts with a strong steady acoustic strum, and introduces lap steel that sounds like backing vocals. The music puts a frame around Emily’s soft, yet strong vocals, with her subtle southern drawl. She finishes a few lines in this song in a near whisper, evoking introspection and self-doubt, supporting the mood and theme.

Emily’s songwriting craft is highly developed with lyrical and melodic hooks in all the right power positions in the verses and chorus. Her narrator in this song is asking some hard questions of an ex-lover. Why did you wait to leave? Were you surprised by you lies? Why did you have to cheat? Why was it easy to do the wrong thing?

But she’s also questioning herself. Where is the good girl, the one who knew better? Why does the wrong thing always have its way with me?

I loved pretty much everything Hackett has posted on her Reverbnation site, so go check it out. I’m hoping that we hear more from her soon.