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Acoustic Syndicate goes electric

By Jeff Eason (

Article Published: Aug. 15, 2013 | Modified: Aug. 15, 2013
Acoustic Syndicate goes electric

Folks who closely follow the Western North Carolina music scene know the story by heart.

After releasing several stellar albums, touring the country and appearing at prestigious events, such as Farm Aid, Acoustic Syndicate was on the verge of becoming a nationwide sensation.

Then they stopped. Band members went their separate ways, families were started, and new musical projects interrupted the Acoustic Syndicate momentum.

For the past few years, however, Acoustic Syndicate has reunited for more and more live shows each year. Next month, the band will release its first album in 10 years, “Rooftop Garden.”

Featuring 10 new original songs — five written by guitarist and vocalist Steve McMurry and five written by his cousin, banjo player, vocalist and electric guitarist Bryon McMurry — “Rooftop Garden” picks up right where 2003’s “Terra Firma” left off. Sort of.

The biggest difference from the Acoustic Syndicate sound of a decade ago is due to a change of personnel. Gone are the jazz-tinged horns provided by Jeremy Saunders. They are replaced by the zinging strings of Billy Cardine, playing acoustic and electric dobro, as well as the electronic sounds of a Moog lap steel.

The album opens, in fact, with a very electric intro of keyboards, drums and beeping strings on the song, “Heroes.”

“The tunes on this album were written with an essentially positive message, one about humanity, earth responsibility and peace,” Steve McMurry said. “And not saying ‘baby’ too much.

“It’s been eight years since we made our last record. With the passage of time, if we are paying attention at all, we see how fragile and tenuous human life really is. It gives you a strong sense of the incredible importance of community, family and love. Those feelings come out in our writing.”

While the songwriting focuses on the human condition, the tunes themselves take a variety of shapes.

“Memphis Girls” is a bluesy rocker, with plenty of instrumental solos.

The 10 songs on “Rooftop Garden” vary in length from 4:46 to 6:06, giving the players ample time and space for creating tension and breaking out with their instruments.

Acoustic Syndicate’s “Rooftop Garden” will be released Sept. 3. The band’s next regional live show will be at the Clear Mountain View Festival in Lawndale, N.C., on Aug. 24.

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