Review: ‘Eastmountainsouth’

Credibility is a hazy concept in alt-country, a genre largely overrun by aging rockers and irony-minded cosmopolitan types. Eastmountainsouth, however, bring pretty solid credentials -- a Southern upbringing and a musical lexicon that doesn't begin and end with Gram Parsons chief among them -- to that overcrowded table.

Credibility is a hazy concept in alt-country, a genre largely overrun by aging rockers and irony-minded cosmopolitan types. Eastmountainsouth, however, bring pretty solid credentials — a Southern upbringing and a musical lexicon that doesn’t begin and end with Gram Parsons chief among them — to that overcrowded table.

Co-leaders Kat Maslich and Peter Adams moved through this Gotham perf at an easy gait, trading off lead vocals and instrumental duties. Her wispy presence — reminiscent of a less urbane Sarah McLachlan –  was offset nicely by his considerably more earthbound tenor, although they worked best of all (as on a cover of the Appalachian traditional “Hard Times”) when harmonizing.

Most of the 75-minute set was drawn from the band’s self-titled DreamWorks debut, a tapestry of self-penned, adapted and public domain material. The first group provided the perf’s most compelling moments, particularly Maslich’s hymn-like “Mark’s Song” (a remembrance of a past love who’d committed suicide) and Adams’ unabashedly romantic “So You Are to Me.”

The ride through cover material was a little rougher, due more to poor choices — such as Stephen Stills’ “Find the Cost of Freedom”– than to the musicians’ ability to handle varied terrain.

Depth of band’s sound belies the paucity of instrumentation, thanks in part to the hypnotic rhythms tapped out by percussionist Quinn, a perpetual motion machine behind his oddly outfitted kit. Shuffling here, tapping there, he added a near-tribal feel to the proceedings, which was particularly appropriate when Maslich and Adams reached deep into the music’s rural Southern roots.

The duo is a bit too earnest for its own good. Taking to the stage po-faced and barefoot, they recalled nothing so much as an alt-country update on Grant Wood’s American Gothic couple. But when the veneer cracks a little, they charm quite readily, as borne out by a rustic but not hokey take on Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.”

Eastmountainsouth

Joe's Pub; 180 capacity; $15

Production

Presented inhouse. Reviewed July 23, 2003

Cast

Band: Kat Maslich, Peter Adams, Quinn.
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