Rising Appalachia (from the album The Lost Mystique of Being in the Know, Independent) (by Chris Wheatley)
This month brings a surprise release from sisters Leah and Chloe Smith, who record under the name Rising Appalachia. Born in Atlanta, the sisters are very much global in both outlook and sound. For fifteen years now, they've blazed a fiercely independent musical trail, channeling their many passions into creative projects. Those passions include advocating for social, racial, and environmental justice, alongside a fondness both for their Southern roots and for music from around the world. ‘We're folk musicians at our core’, says Leah, ‘the experience of playing music together in one room, looking at each other, is the bedrock of what we do’.
What to expect from The Lost Mystique of Being in the Know? Opener “Catalyst” makes for a fine start. Gently cryptic acoustic guitar rolls a nuanced rhythm, upright-bass dropping deep splashes of colour. Shuffling drums and rattling percussion stir up a soft base over which the sisters harmonize with bucolic charm. It's a delicately swaying, compelling Folk-Jazz poem, with some pleasingly unexpected edges. The sisters' vocals are smooth and sophisticated, with a Rootsy feel and beautiful tone. You can't help but be won over by the easy warmth of this track, and impressed by both its depth and its style.
Follower “Ngoni” shimmers with mesmerizing West-African style finger-picked strings; a hypnotic rhythm whose subtle changes catch the ear. Echoing, dubby drums bounce and roll, bowed double-bass a perfect contrast to those shining strings. This is global Folk music indeed, shot through with a spirit of togetherness. Throughout this album, the compositions impress as much as the musician's technical skills. Songs and melodies arise organically and the playing is classy without the slightest hint of pretension. “Silver” unfurls slowly, fresh and glittering as a summer stream. There's strength here, but no swagger. Acoustic guitar, bass, and intricate percussion dance around each other in a ballet of captivating sounds. Rising Appalachia’s vocals match the feel and vibe wonderfully; a seductive blanket of words.
“Lost Girl” features some lovely picked banjo, making fine use of that instrument's ability to drive both rhythmically and melodically. Everything here feels as natural as a meadow. What is truly remarkable, however, is how much spirit the sisters infuse into this set. Nothing feels light or throwaway, yet that alluring charm permeates like the warm rays of the sun. These are musicians whose love for music is deeply linked to the land. Rising Appalachia are indeed Folk players at their core.
Witness “Clay”, which feels as old as the hills and as fresh as tomorrow. Languid bowed strings lay down swirling undertones, then rise and circle like gulls. Acoustic guitar strums and plucks, painting a pastoral scene as lovely as any you could wish for. Unity is the theme here, a oneness both with nature, with each other and with you and I, the listeners. Album closer, the aptly titled “Depth”, takes us on a journey of possibility and peril, of hope and desire. With a sparse arrangement of finger-picked banjo, shakers, deep drums, and skittering strings, Rising Appalachia say more in a single track than many a band achieve over an entire album. (by Chris Wheatley)
The Lost Mystique of Being in the Know is a record to savour.
Listen and buy the music of Rising Appalachia from AMAZON
For more information, please visit the Rising Appalachia website