Possum Jenkins is a band with a silly name but seriously good music.
Since 2004, the Boone-bred five-piece has turned heads with its unique moniker, but it’s the band’s distinct sound that has made it a musical staple in the High Country and gotten its members to bigger stages in the Southeast, like FloydFest and Bristol Rhythm & Roots.
“Carolinacana” is the title Possum Jenkins has given their music and their fourth album, released at the beginning of 2012.
Possum Jenkins is in the alt-country vein that Uncle Tupelo and Whiskeytown flow through, but there ares also elements of Appalachia and Southern rock, soul and blues in the mixture. The band could just as easily be associated with the Black Crowes or the Allman Brothers Band. Possum Jenkins is an amalgam of the aforementioned styles, all of which have strong ties to Carolina; “Carolinacana” certainly qualifies as a descriptor.
The travails, triumphs and trivialities of Possum Jenkins’ members are explored on the “Carolinacana.” It’s an everyday man’s album. Rotating vocalists, guitarists and drummers David Willis, Nate Turner and Dave Brewer, bassist Jared Church and harmonica player Brent Buckner have the same issues as everyone else – frays in relationships (“Cheatin Song”), broken down cars (“Mile Past Broke”) and the far-too long workweek keeping us from the things we’d rather be doing (“Back to You”).
These are problems we would all like to avoid but nevertheless end up having to address; Possum Jenkins acknowledges the frustrations of life, but also infuses some hope in between the harsh realities. The first happy guitar notes that introduce the album in “Copper Coin” remind us that a fresh day follows each bad one, and we’re told later in the album, “We’re all going to leave here with nothing, no matter what you’ve bought, as long as there’s something in your heart right now, then all is not lost.”
With the help of some additional players, they even manage to bring some sunlight into the subject of mortality. Jordan Craig’s trombone and David McCracken’s organ are funereal, and at the same time celebratory in “Know the Way,” a song detailing the singer’s burial wishes. Molly McGinn also gives a subtle but stunning vocal harmony on the chorus of this song and again on “A Toast.”
In “Carolinacana,” Possum Jenkins is realized as a maturing band. On the professional level, their songs are delivered seamlessly and without much production. They are a band that has yet to reach a plateau. On the personal level, the subject matter of their lyrics is especially relatable to other people of their age group (20s moving into 30s), forced to move further into adulthood.
Nevertheless, the songs don’t go overboard into serious territory.
There many variables within Possum Jenkins make them a flexible and always interesting band. The vocalist doesn’t remain the same from song to song, and tracks cannot be categorized. One person might consider “Steel Heart” a laid-back rock song, while another hears the steel guitar and thinks country, and then there’s the harmonica and blues guitar to consider, as well.
The music is individual, a collection of everything its members have experienced, musically and otherwise, over the years.
Possum Jenkins is all of the above and none of the above. They’re Carolinacana.
For more information on Possum Jenkins, visit http://www.possumjenkinsband.com.