• Take2 by WillBmusic
The inspiration of singer/songwriter Will Baker, Take2 is one of those totally DIY projects. Baker performs all the instruments on this collection of 14 mellow, languidly groovy tracks (exception: "The Hill" is a collaboration with songwriter Jon Oakley). "Beautiful Moment" has a fluid feel from the jazzy cymbal taps to the supple guitar work, and Baker does a nice job of providing harmonies to his own vocals. "Nottingham" verges on power ballad with minor keys, driving percussion and theatrical, Arthurian lyrics. These days, the Burlington-based artist performs with the quintet The Inebriators. Learn more and listen to tracks at www.myspace.com/willbaker4u.
• Welcome to Asheville by Denise Ostler
"Sassy, spirited, soothing songs for life in the vortex," reads the cover for vocalist/ukulele player/toy pianist Denise Ostler's new disc. The 13-track album is part camp, part serious musicianship: It's hard to take the hula-esque strumming too seriously, especially when paired with Ostler's Asheville-centric musings. "You can be an artist here, if your trust fund don't run out," she croons. But the tongue-in-cheekiness is offset by Ostler's truly rich and dynamic lyrics (not to mention double harmonies) and her stellar — if infrequently-tapped — team of guest musicians. Learn more and listen to tracks at www.myspace.com/deniseleeostler.
• Don't Miss A Thing by David Dhoop
From the first notes, David Dhoop's 5-track EP imparts a Lennon-esque quality, in the best sense. "Some people's love is the hurtin' kind," he sings in the catchy refrain of the opening track. The pop savvy is more Julian than John; the crispy guitars and crackling organs are almost futuristic and the metallic ring of horns takes the song to a whole new level. This is not straightforward rock: Indeed, Dhoop's very style suggests that he's mastered both the writing and the playing parts of music and is now out to construct songs that hang in the balance between familiar and wildly experimental. Learn more and listen to tracks at www.daviddhoop.com.
• Factory by The South French Broads
At the onset it seems local duo The South French threw everything but the kitchen sink into their recently released 17-song album. Then it becomes apparent that they've incorporated that sink as well. Toys, whistles, pummeling drums, alto sax, performance-art lyrics, and kid voices and philosophy ("If you cut a worm in half it makes two little worms, my boy once said / Some bear the gift of regeneration," reveals "Worms") all find a place in this sometimes dizzying array of sonic mayhem. While SFB's unique sound might not be to everyone's liking (hint: you can't slow dance to it), this is a band that knows how to have fun and their sense of whimsy and unabashed creativity is infectious. Learn more and listen to tracks at www.myspace.com/thesouthfrenchbroads.
• Rebel on the Highway by The Terry Eckard Band
What we have here is Southern rock. Longview-based guitarist/vocalist Terry Eckard calls his sound "slide guitar slingin' hippie jamband" and chances are, a jury of his peers would agree. The track "Easy on Myself" borrows a page directly from the ZZ Top playbook, what with the churning guitars, funk grooves and heavy percussion; "Loves Got Me Crying" is a slow burn with blues riffs and whisky-soaked vocals. No surprises here, but Southern-rock fans are unlikely to be disappointed by Eckard's very solid and well-studied offering. Learn more and listen to tracks at www.theterryeckardband.com.
• Banana Da Terra (self-titled)
Though Boone might seem an unlikely locale for a neo-Bossa Nova trio, Banana Da Terra is the real deal. Brazilian-born band leader Jimmie Griffith possesses a gorgeous voice with an impressive range. Singing in Portuguese, he creates a mood of effortless cool. Jazz percussion, sultry classical guitar and slinky bass complete a mood of glamorous lounge ambiance paired with tropical heat. Think Astrud and João Gilberto with all the crisp '60s elegance, but updated with modern sensibilities. Check out "Soul" for its moody, slow swing and "Amanah" for deep grooves and a delicate play of light and dark. Learn more and listen to tracks at www.myspace.com/bdtmusic.