Eastmountainsouth is a duo consisting of Virginia native Kat Maslich and Alabama native Peter Adams. The pair sing rich, world weary vocal harmonies and are here backed by a heck of a crew. Robbie Robertson is listed as Executive Producer, veteran Mitchell Froom produced and the ubiquitous Bob Clearmountain mixed the record. Musicians on the record include bassist Davey Faragher (Cracker), drummer Pete Thomas (Attractions) and multi-instrumentalist Greg Leisz.
Not unexpectedly, this record sounds great. Froom keeps the sonics and instrumentation consistently interesting, if painstakingly precise. He also knows when to step back and keep things simple as on the soaring “So Are You To Me.” Maslich sounds a touch like Emily Saliers, and tunes like “Winter” should appeal to fans of the Indigo Girls.
The record’s best moments come when the duo takes an old song and gives it a distinctively modern sonic setting. The opening “Hard Times” is the familiar Stephen Foster tune tricked out with modern percussion, fiddle, mandola and harmonium. And the public domain traditional number “The Ballad of Young Alban and Amandy” features not only banjo and Wurlitzer, but also Moog synth and drum loops.
The duo’s original songs are more problematic, with many of them failing to leave a lasting impression. The end result is that while the record is a very tasteful, professional and slick sounding product, it’s a little too lacking in personality. Eastmountainsouth could have kept at least a few rough edges in their Appalachian folk-pop and come up with something more satisfying and resonant.