Tennessee Jed - Acoustica

For fans of acoustic music, a certain level of devotion to unmolested, unamplified sounds is expected from artists in the genre. Well, Raleigh, NC's Tennessee Jed has concocted a mindset and an album that will satisfy the purist's craving for earthy acoustic vibrations while also entertaining from a songwriting standpoint. There's even a warning on the inside of the CD, assuring the listener that no electric guitars were used in making it. That's devotion to the wood and wire, right there. Acoustica is a great title for this album, in the sense that it embodies a wide range of styles within the same medium.
Shunning the tried-and-true route of cover songs and rehashes of typically acoustic forms like bluegrass and folk, Tennessee Jed adds a fair amount of rock and roll flair to Acoustica, mainly through his vibrant vocals. Also there are drums, and even organ. The end result is a truly resonant acoustic experience that surprises the listener by not being easily comparable to previously existing music. Intrinsically, songs like "You Take Me Higher" and "I Hate To See You Leave" exhibit a touch of modern-day country music, with wry lyrics and straightforward song structures, but you'd be hard-pressed to name an artist with a similarly singular style. If anything, one could say that Jed's voice is similar to Drew Emmit's, but that's where the comparisons get tougher.

While Acoustica began as a solo effort, Jed soon enlisted the help of friends to flesh out the songs, and their contributions perfectly complement Jed's unique works. "Gotta Be Wrong To Be Right" wiggles through a diverse forest of sounds, even breaking into a mildly psychedelic moment helped by the pulsing bass of Robert Sledge (Ben Folds Five) and the organ of Jason Ellis. Other tunes like "Opie's Opus" benefit from a more bare-bones sound, with only bass, fiddle and guitar filling up the speakers. Mountain Music informs the high-lonesome streaks in "The Ballad of Sam and Molly," but even that exemplary Appalachian style is dashed with dramatic rock chords. In fact, the one true moment of bluegrass on the album, "Pruning Shears," comes as a shock to the ear - nearly as much as the organ and strings on "What Some Say." Acoustica is a great start for this singer/songwriter and a convincing glimpse into his diversity.

--Bryan Rodgers 

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