My photographer partner David Lee and I were excited to attend The BIG What? for the first time this June. As we set up camp in the band area, we were immediately struck by the warmth and friendliness of the people we met. That was never more true than about the folks right next to us. Eric immediately introduced himself and some of his friends to us. We learned that they were members of Urban Soil, a band from Raleigh. These people had arrived early Thursday, even though their set wasn’t scheduled for Saturday afternoon.
We got to talk with them further, and we appreciated that they and other groups were there to support each other in addition to playing their sets. That was one of the great themes of the weekend.
Urban Soil was new to us. At most we’d seen the band’s Facebook page and watched a couple of YouTube videos. Here is how the members describe their sound:
“Hailing from the streets of downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, Urban Soil weaves Americana, rock and soul into their explosive live shows and tightly polished albums, Dig Deeper and Live from the Deepwoods, the latter featuring their highly anticipated single and subsequent video, “Gotta Go.” The track thoroughly displays the uncompromising energy that Urban Soil is consistent in delivering, and likewise exemplifies the band’s skillful-yet–visceral sound. They have the unique talent of displaying the energy of their live shows on to their studio recordings, resulting in an electrifying experience with every listen. Influenced by early roots elements, Urban Soil uniquely fuses those sounds with a fresh take, delivering a blend of raw, nostalgic foundations with a modern and glistening slant.”
Urban Soil had the 2 PM slot on the What? Stage on Saturday, so the band held an impromptu tune-up session at the campsite before noon. We were knocked out by the beautiful vocals and intricate playing we heard. My only concern was that this soft and beautiful sound might get swallowed up on stage with a variety of competing noises and voices in the stage area.
Not to worry. Urban Soil serves their “homegrown sweet Americana jam” with a generous side-helping of kick-ass. They delivered an excellent, joyous, well-received set. The sound is centered around the remarkable voice of front woman Sarah Reinke, whose passion is evident on every song. Her vocal style is clear and confident, and she sings with a smile. She plays acoustic and electric guitar and washboard, the latter always a crowd-pleaser, and she gets amazing sounds from it.
Our gracious neighbor Eric Chesson is the second focus in Urban Soil. His stinging guitar was out front in the mix, the clean picking style making every note ring true. He drives the music whether he is comping underneath the vocals or knocking out a bunch of great solos, and his solid vocals mesh perfectly with Reinke’s.
Greg Meckley’s skillful violin- and mandolin-playing make the Americana part of their mission statement work. That sweet violin weaves its way in and around the two guitars. The bottom is perfectly anchored by brothers Gabe Fawcett and Curtis Fawcett on drums and bass respectively; these guys help to ensure that ‘kick-ass’ part with great punch.
“Urban Soil is a working band steadily increasing their fan base with every fiery live performance and album sale. Embracing their much-deserved success, they stand out as a band to watch among the region’s fertile hotbed of music. Urban from the city streets, and Soil from the grainy roots, this band soars into the clubs and airwaves with every component of their unwavering approach to Americana.” [from the band bio]
Eric Chasson spoke about the origins of the band:
“Urban Soil originated in 2012 as a project with my then 17-year-old daughter in the front lady position. After about a year, Jazmine did what most 18-year-olds do and has moved on to things other than hanging out with her dad all the time! Sarah came in to fill the void, and it was pretty amazing how smooth the transition was. We had to spend another year finding the right person on fiddle, as Jazmine played that in the band originally as well. After some jockeying around with pretty much every other position in the band, we have finally settled in here in 2015 with our current lineup, and it feels really good.”
“Our new album, which we begin tracking today [July 7th], will definitely reflect the groove we’ve found with this lineup. The name of the band came from an analogy to music we made as we were digging a garden in the backyard of my downtown Raleigh home. Being in a historic neighborhood, 100 years ago many people buried some of their trash in their own backyards, so we kept digging up everything from old irons, a scythe and depression-era glass to a solid gold ring (cha-ching!!). It occurred to us that our music is a lot like this Urban Soil: If you just Dig Deeper you never know what kind of treasures you may discover!”
Sarah Reinke explains her attraction to music:
“My favorite thing about music is that it brings people together. I bring that as an intention when I write songs. My newest goal with music is to write in as many styles/genres that I can (with my own flare of course) so that the music appeals to a wider range of people. The lyrics are typically about nature, as both nature and music are universal things, therefore bringing people from every race, background, and style together.”
Urban Soil will be performing at the Home Grown Music Network 20th Anniversary Festival (October 1-3 in Mebane NC) and had a featured festival artist post July 2nd on HGMN’s Facebook page.
The group released two albums in 2014, a studio effort titled Dig Deeper and Live from the Deepwoods. Here is a link to a fine review of Dig Deeper by Home Grown Music Network writer J. Evan Wade. Evan and I had the pleasure of trading stories and viewpoints at The BIG What?