Now You See Them, a talented trio of indie-folk musicians from western Pennsylvania, includes Shane Conerty (guitar/ukulele/vocals), Dulci Ellenberger (guitar/melodica/vocals), and Jason Mercer (percussion).
As their travels took them to exotic locales like Australia, Fiji and Hawaii—all the while writing, performing, and earning their room and board with their music—the group finally decided to join Asheville, N.C.’s lively music scene in 2008 after countless recommendations from friends and strangers.
“Someone would inevitably approach us and tell us that our sound belonged in Asheville,” says Mercer.
On their most recent album, the self-released Live From Asheville, Vol. 4, band members show off their accomplished skills as both live performers and songwriters. NYST songs are free of endless guitar solos and meandering jams. They are filled with hook-laden sweet choruses and acoustically driven songs.
“Firetrucks” is an admirable illustration about playing out in the streets. In “Don’t Give Up On Me,” Conerty and Ellenberger sing, “And we’ll mark this day / like a crucifix on the highway / the day you almost gave up.”
NYST’s forte lies in perfect harmonies, quirky instrumentation, original arrangements, and thoughtful lyrics that are neither abstract nor plaintive, but ultimately uplifting without the portentous arrogance that is commonly used by naïve songwriters.
With plans to record a full-length studio album this winter, Now You See Them is a rising star in western North Carolina. As the band moves from street corners to nationally recognized festivals like Bele Chere and the Flat Rock Music Festival, it’s a sure bet you’ll see them on stage near you.
Malcolm Holcombe: For the Mission Baby
Malcolm Holcombe, a Weaverville, N.C., native, has seen plenty in his 56 years, certainly enough to philosophize in his songs. With his latest release, For the Mission Baby from Asheville’s Echo Mountain Records, Holcombe is making the most of his talents and releasing some of the best music of his life.
Holcombe is one of the best-kept secrets in the western North Carolina mountains. He is an incredible live performer and a unique talent who creates a timeless brand of folk music. There have been some dark times in Holcombe’s past. Whether vexed by tragic personal events or his battles with alcoholism and depression, his career ultimately suffered in the mid ‘90s. That prevailing darkness still creeps into his songs but allows him to sing from the heart.
On For the Mission Baby you’ll be transported back to hollers where mason jars, banjo pickers, and front porch jams are common. “Bigtime Blues,” the bluesy stomp opener, has a slow burning groove that’s accompanied by the fantastic dobro work of Jarred Tyler, who shines throughout the album. It’s a lead-off track that could cause you to stomp a hole in the floorboard of your car.
Lyrically, Holcombe’s songs follow that blurry line between fiction and reality. With a voice seemingly as old as the mountains he comes from, Holcombe shares gritty vocals on the title track. The upbeat swing of “Short Street Blues” comes from a man who’s lived where it hurts.
His live shows are furiously intense, sometimes described as a man possessed. But he claims he doesn’t necessarily lose himself in song. It’s a chaotic balance of reverence for the audience, nerves and passion.
This folk troubadour makes music that is more profound than country. Think Americana minus the self-importance, while retaining a sincere gift for crafting a song. Holcombe’s clearly an authentic character that is irreplaceable in an often copied-and-pasted world. His living has earned our admiration, his release becomes our guilty pleasure, and what he shares becomes a revelation.