Steve Howell Band / Glory Fountain / Jostle Lee – Carrboro ArtsCenter (Carrboro, NC)
The second in a series of showcases organized by a North Carolina internet discussion group called Guitartown, this evening found three local roots-oriented acts performing in an environment that felt more like an old-fashioned ice cream social or a small community gathering.
Jostle Lee came on first and delivered tightly knit harmonies and minor-key folk. Drummer Brett Beardsley, multi-instrumentalist Jennifer Spillman and guitarist Scott Spillman turned folk on its head in little oblique angles. Beardsley’s subtle percussive effects complemented such songs as “You Are My Friend” and “Lovesick”, while the Spillmans’ harmonies recalled of Carla Torgerson and Chris Eckman of the Walkabouts. Perhaps most notable was a brooding reinvention, with 12-string guitar, bongos and shaker, of the Allman Brothers’ “Midnight Rider”.
The acoustic duo Glory Fountain was next. Singer Lynn Blakey, also a member of Tres Chicas (with Whiskeytown’s Caitlin Cary and Hazeldine’s Tonya Lamm), joined guitarist John Chumbris for a set of songs both old and new. Chumbris slammed out distorted licks that seemed even more disturbing at low volume. Alongside Blakey’s sometimes gothic, sometimes regretful lyrics, Chumbris’s guitar moved like a snake. Songs such as “Rosary” and the “The Beauty Of 23” rang through the room while Blakey stared up into the air as if transfixed by something unseen.
The final act of the night left a profound impression. Steve Howell, a founding Backslider and former Two Dollar Pistol, fronted his new band, Barndance, but instead of stinging guitar licks, Howell strummed mandolin as if his life depended on it. Backed by renowned Triangle veterans John Heames on bass, P. Oui Watson on guitar, Jason Bone on drums, and Allyn Love on pedal steel, Howell blasted out first-rate originals such as “King Of The Honky Tonks” and “Southern Line”.
Though this was their first show together, Howell and his band played as if this was the only thing they had ever done, serving notice that another potential alt-country powerhouse had opened shop in the Triangle.