Exebelle & the Rusted Cavalcade

The Antipoison Creek Sessions

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Faced with the departure of erstwhile frontman C.E. Wright in 2008, the remaining members of Exebelle & the Rusted Cavalcade returned to the drawing board and sketched out a new sound, one that built upon the alt country tones of their debut EP with thicker harmonies, varied instrumentation, and overt nods to their native Virginia. The Antipoison Creek Sessions is certainly brief, its four tracks barely approaching 20 minutes in length, but the disc capably showcases the band's spruced-up approach to roots music, with every member contributing songwriting credits and lead vocals. Foremost among them is lead guitarist Philip Heesen, who co-founded the band with Wright and helms several songs here, from the bouncing bluegrass strains of "Flood Walls" to the atmospheric "What If We Fell." If "Flood Walls" is the EP's brightest tune -- an Appalachian, foot-stomping number geared for campfire singalongs -- then "What If We Fell" is its nocturnal cousin, tailor-made for the lonely, contemplative hours after the campfire has died out. Heesen wields a fine voice on both songs, alternating between light twang and Wallflowers-styled huskiness, but the band's harmonies still command the bulk of the spotlight. Sustained triads and thick, country-choral chords help widen Heesen's melodies, and the band's vocal strength comes to a head on "Lonesome Canyon," a rainy day track penned by bassist Ryan Owenby and sung by all three members. It's a relatively simple song, but the bandmates dress up its casual bounce with cello, homemade percussion, multiple guitars, and pristine harmonies, proving that new life can still be found in old traditions.

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