Friday, August 1, 2008

MyJoog Artist: Oneside

In preparation for the 5 hour drive to FloydFest I had thrown several CDs into the car expecting to listen to each sometime during the trip. Howver, after listening to the new Los Lonely Boys and some old Crooked Still, I put in First to Last from Oneside and that was it. Nothing else. I listened to this CD the remaining 4 hours – over and over again. In hindsight, I can’t determine why; I just got into a groove driving and First to Last lead the way. It may have been the opening song, “The Letter” which sadly I repeated way too often attempting to analyze the melody. It started out as a semi-gospel similar to a Lynn August Juré. Then it transitioned to a blues rhythm with a slight bluegrass feel. I guess anything with a banjo sounds a little like bluegrass. Then out of nowhere the song explodes into a rockabilly riff and then into a gumbo of rock, blues, and bluegrass. It’s just a good rocking song – great to listen to while driving. The same holds for “Got to Go” and “Last Radio”. However, the CD contains more than high tempo tracks; no two songs are really the same and while listening I imaged other artists performing the songs. “Into the Night” could have been composed by Tea Leaf Green; “Oh Sun” by the Old 97s. Sometimes I heard New Monsoon; other times The Randy Rogers Band. I even heard some classic rock from Yes. So who are these guys? The promoters of FloydFest felt highly enough to schedule Oneside for three sets; as did the 2008 High Sierra Festival. Front-man Todd Sheaffer of Railroad Earth is a huge fan. But me, I had no idea.

The entire band agreed to take time out of their FloydFest schedule and accompanied me to neighboring Chateau Morrisette winery where over a bottle of Viognier we discussed the band’s origin and influences. Oneside is currently based out of Boston and consists of Ned deBary (lead vocals; guitar), Chris Hersch (banjo), Jake Brooks (drums and percussion) and Grafton Pease (bass; vocals). It all started in 2002 when Jake moved from Colorado to Boston and partnered with his long time friend, Ned, and formed a precursor to Oneside. After a few lineup changes, Grafton signed on, then Chris and the ensemble has been intact since. Chris commented how accommodating the other band members were when he was recruited. At the time he was a jazz guitarist but he asked if he could play the acoustic banjo, and the response was “Yea, no problem”. A very fortunate decision; without this instrument the band could be just another rock band out of … No I can’t even finish the line. But seriously there’s more to the group’s sound then just the banjo. Each member had listened to classic rock, grunge, and Guns N’ Roses while growing up, so there’s some influence from these genres; but there was also old country - as in Charlie Patton old country – jazz, blues, and Johnny Cash Sun recordings. In fact, their Friday rendition of Cash’s Cocaine Blues was one of my favorite songs of the weekend. They were also clever enough to cater to their audience over the weekend and performed popular versions of John Prine’s Paradise and The Band’s Ophelia. But this band doesn’t want to be stereotyped – they don’t think of themselves as a rock band or bluegrass, or country. Americana suits us, but to the band they are just “Onside” where everyone collaborates to produce what they feel is the best sound for each particular song. And why title their debut CD: “First, To Last”? Because even though the compilation is their first release, they plan on enduring to the end. We hope so.

On the ride home from FloydFest, I listened to “First, To Last” again – but only once. There was no longer a need to analyze the songs; I just enjoyed each one. “The Letter” is still my favorite, but after seeing the band perform three consecutive days, I have a new appreciation for “Josephine”, “Lisa”, and “Didn’t Know ‘Til Now”. To paraphrase the tasting notes from the bottle we shared – these songs have depth and complexity. Oneside concluded their first national tour at FloydFest, but the band hits the road again in early August. They have shows scheduled at several of their favorite venues throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. “First, To Last” will be officially released September 27th. Want an early copy - go out and see one of the shows; you’ll be glad you did.

No comments: