Overtly political music makes me squeamish. Sure, I love Woody Guthrie and Utah Philips, but I generally shy away from musicians with an out-to-change-the-world agenda. R.I.S.E (Rising Appalachia) is a band with an unabashed agenda but, luckily, they’re also a band with a boatload of creativity and a kick-ass old-time sound.
Evolutions in Sound compiles live recordings, featuring hard-driving songs interspersed with spoken word pieces and banter. While bandleader sisters Leah and Chloe certainly make valid points in their poems and speeches, it’s something we’ve all heard before (literally—their stage soliloquizing mimics Ani DiFranco’s, right down to the inflection on certain words.)
But if you skip straight to the songs, you’re in for a treat. And, if nothing else, check out R.I.S.E. for the way the sisters’ voices create such ethereal, seamless harmonies. The rest is low-fi Appalachian roots music, full of banjos, fiddles and stand-up bass, but it’s also surprisingly non-political, and colored in fantastic ways with jazz, gospel and even Congolese folk music. “Lamb” is a rollicking, foot-stomping tune that mixes gospel and moonshine, and their version of “Ain’t No Sunshine” is the sultriest I’ve heard. My request? Less talk, more tunes.
R.I.S.E. plays the Top Hat Tuesday, June 9, at 10 PM. Free.