Underhill Rose’s website describes their sound as “heartfelt country soul,” and this is largely accurate. The trio from Asheville, North Carolina certainly has elements of country (pedal steel colors a few tracks) and soul (especially in the vocals), but it’s the bluegrass and folk elements that stick out to me the most. Many songs are tinted with an almost 60s pop flavor; on several songs I was humming the hook the first time through. This and the fact that the band is made up of three females (Eleanor Underhill, banjo; Molly Rose Reed, guitar; Salley Williamson, upright bass) give Underhill Rose a unique and rich sound full of high harmonies and accessible but inventive melodies . On Something Real, their latest album released earlier in May of this year, the group handles well the balance between up-tempo tunes that make you want to go clogging on a piece of plywood at a barn dance and beautiful ballads that make you want to sit in a dark room alone with a pint or jar of your favorite something strong.
The album starts with a harmonica, banjo, and dobro infused bang in “Helpless Wanderer,” a celebration of the fact that it’s okay to feel lost in this big ole world because, well, we all do. It ends with a playful ode to the waning twenties (“The End Of 27”) that, with its heavy dose of trumpet and strummed banjo, wouldn’t sound out of place if played in a smoky jazz club of yesteryear. In between are gorgeous ballads about moving on (“Unused To You”) and the various life pains and frustrations that can lead to libations (“Drives Me To Drinking”), which contains the excellent line, “He’s talking trash and spitting game/ With a pocket full of his daddy’s change/ He thinks he knows what a woman wants/ But all I see is a boy in pain/ And I’m wondering where all the real men are/ But somehow I know they won’t be found in this old bar.” Fun, toe-tapping songs about true friendship (“They Got My Back”) and the simple life (“Little House”) offer a nice counter to those grittier realities, with the latter giving great advice on the best way to keep a house heated and a glimpse of the band’s care-free sense of humor: “I just want to have a little house/ Red tin roof and a kitchen mouse.”
The spin that sealed the deal for me came while driving one town over, from Lexington to Paris, Kentucky, to meet a friend for dinner. There are picturesque and expansive horse farms for miles on either side of the road. The bustling traffic of the city subsides in favor of the quiet music of the country. Excluding headphones or spinning vinyl in a darkened room, there is no better atmosphere in the world that allows you to truly listen to an album. The sultry folk of Something Real provided the perfect soundtrack for that head-clearing drive. Over a span of roughly 47 minutes and 13 tracks, it’s great music for driving on the open road toward a new horizon.
Buy Something Real