Urban Soil hails from Raleigh, North Carolina and incorporates elements of Americana, jam-inspired swagger, and excellent vocal performance to offer a fresh take on these genres, while building a sound that is uniquely their own. In this 9-song debut, the band offers pensive tracks like “The One Who Lost the Love” and “Mountain Song” and contrasts those with the more raucous strains of the title track and songs like “Mr. Coconuts” and “Clown Class.” In offering such multi-dimensional tracks and moods on this album, the band becomes difficult to pigeonhole for the sake of description. While Reinke’s pensive lyrics and excellent vocals might inspire one to sit and marvel, other tracks insure that each performance will have dancers, the bobbing of appreciative heads, and enthusiastic roars between songs. At the time of this recording, the band featured Sarah Reinke on vocals, guitar, and washboard, Eric Chesson on guitars, bass, vocals, and keys, Mitch Trotter on violin and fiddle as the core, while other musicians offered their take on drums, vocals, bass, and violin respectively. Since the time of this recording, the lineup of the band has coalesced around Reinke and Chesson, with Ben Hunter, Gabe Fawcett, and Greg Meckley taking on new duties on bass, drums/percussion, and fiddle/violin respectively.
The first track on “Dig Deeper,” “The One Who Lost the Love” begins with a wistful, almost lonesome guitar flourish before coalescing around an energetic violin-infused saunter. The foundation of this song is bolstered by confident vocals while violin really shines throughout. “Cultures Collide” proves to be a sophisticated offering with Sarah Reinke’s vocals pairing nicely with Mitch Trotter’s violin/fiddle work. The song offers several different styles, celebrates the “intertwining” of love and culminates in a more exploratory, yet purposeful and methodical jam. The title track gallops out of the starting gates on the strength of Reinke’s vocals, while guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Eric Chesson offers muscular guitar lines to complement her, getting a chance to shine here as well. “Mr. Coconuts” serves up a similar guitar-driven sensibility in its opening measures, culminating in several passages of guitar fireworks, while Chesson’s lyrics and vocals prove to be upbeat and engaging as well.
“Answer Man” features energetic interplay between guitar and violin, strong rhythm, and moments of syncopation that spotlight Chesson’s guitar in places and Trotter’s violin in others. The latter proves particularly delectable while the song’s vocals and lyrics inspire one to sing along as well. “Natural” begins deliberately, almost meditatively, but garners steam and ultimately results in a spirited rocker that summons the great traditions of Southern jam and rock. “Clown Class” offers sizzling guitar, strong vocal delivery, and a general spirit of rowdiness and fun. The song changes gears throughout, shedding its embellishment at times, only to rise again on the strength of vocals, violin, and guitar. In doing so, the track offers a layered, moody sensibility. The album closes with “Mountain Song,” a stripped down, acoustic number that summons the traditions of Appalachia and offers a lovely, elegant ending.
In reviewing the 9 tracks on this album, I find myself drawn to Reinke’s voice, her sense of presentation, and to her honest, forthright delivery. I also find myself enjoying those moments where the band picks up steam and delves into spirited segments of guitar-laced rock and roll. The overall production on debut is sharp, and the band has recently released another companion album as well, entitled “Live from the Deepwoods.” This newer recording displays the new lineup and current direction of the band in a hometown show from 2014. After several listens of this debut, I find my interest piqued, and definitely plan to check the companion release out as well.
-J. Evan Wade