South Carolina Broadcasters
A Thousand Miles Away From Home
Local trio South Carolina Broadcasters — a joyful celebration of traditional Appalachian music, bluegrass, and old-time styles — have a gem on their hands. The musical chemistry between Ivy Sheppard (fiddle, banjo, guitar, vocals), David Sheppard (guitar, vocals), and newcomer Grace Kennedy (banjo, vocals) is strong from track to track on this no-frills, no overdubbing, cleanly-recorded studio album.
Appropriately, the Broadcasters tracked A Thousand Miles Away From Home up in the Virginia mountains at Eastman Studios with revered bluegrass songwriter Johnny Williams at the helm. The quick-paced, high-pitched “Foggy Mountain Top” demonstrates the trio’s strongest qualities: tight harmonies, assertive strumming technique, the occasional yodel, and a sense of urgency that enhances the sincerity of the lyrics. The more waltzy “Bummin’ an Old Freight Train” lays back just a bit, with David Sheppard handling the lowest notes in the verses. The prickly, banjo-driven “Ain’t Gonna Work Tomorrow” is practically a hobo anthem, with Ivy taking lead vocals on a few lines.
There’s a good dose of vintage gospel, too — the kind that drones with authentic folkiness. The lumbering “Diamonds in the Rough” and the more up-tempo “Over in the Gloryland” are as spirited and authentic as anything one can catch on the religious AM radio stations scatterd around the Deep South.
There are humorous moments and clever undercurrents on the album, too, as with the not-so-churchy singalong “S-A-V-E-D” (they sing that they used to be “L-O-S-T” and “F-O-U-N-D”) or the haulin’-ass closing track, “I’m Leaving You This Lonesome Song.”
It’s encouraging to have such a solid old-time/folk trio like this in the local scene. In their liner notes, they describe the songs as “tunes that speak to the universal human condition and transcend the whims and fads of popular culture.” With such heavy notions going down, it’s possible that the South Carolina Broadcasters could save us all. (myspace.com/thesouthcarolinabroadcasters)
The South Carolina Broadcasters perform at the Recovery Room at 8 p.m. on Tues. Feb. 22 and in the early evening at the Brewvival festival at COAST on Sat. Feb. 26.