One Man Show

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30db's debut album is called One Man Show, but it's really a two-man show, since this side project represents the duo of singer/songwriter/mandolin player Jeff Austin of Yonder Mountain String Band and singer/songwriter/guitarist Brendan Bayliss of Umphrey's McGee, who apparently met on the jam band circuit and bonded over their shared hometown of Chicago. (This group of musicians who continue to be members of other ongoing bands is filled out by guitarist Nick Forster of Hot Rize, bassist Eric Thorin of Open Road, and drummer Cody Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars.) Another thing they had in common, according to their press bio, is that "both witnessed the end of long-term relationships," and when they began writing together for One Man Show, that experience was their inspiration. As it turns out, however, neither seems to have completely digested the experience sufficiently to render it coherently in lyrics. "Every time I try to tell the story/It seems to backfire," admits Austin in "Backfire," and Bayliss is equally tongue-tied in "Get in Line," singing, "If it's all made up, then I could never/Speak enough to lay it all out." But if the two artists cannot manage to detail their troubles, they do succeed in conveying a sense of distress. Still, they speak better with their fingers. However unhappy the words, the music is consistently engaging. Veering from catchy pop/rock to newgrass country-rock, 30db effectively play tunes sprightly enough to suggest that Austin and Bayliss may be healed by their artistry as musicians, even if they never get around to talking their heartaches out.

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