Though known for a wide-range of musical styles, Greater Cincinnati has always had an especially strong Americana/ Roots music scene, as evidenced each year by the stacked lineup at the annual Rivertown Breakdown showcase. With the release of Nothing As It Was, Mark Utley and his band Magnolia Mountain (pictured) should instantly jump to the top of any list of Cincinnati’s best Roots practitioners.
Nothing As It Was — to be released in conjunction with a MM show Saturday at the Southgate House with guests The Tillers and Kim Taylor — is soulful, haunting and pure, taking the best of Country, Folk and Bluegrass and refracting it through a modern prism. It rings incredibly authentic and timeless, an album that could have come out 40, 30 or 20 years ago but is too lively and crafty to stand as some sort of retro-music museum piece.
The “Roots” being spread around on Nothing are wide-reaching — “Irish Maggie” strides and jigs like a vintage Celtic Folk song, while the highlight, “Out of My Mind,” has the sad, earnest feel of a great George Jones love lament.
Most startling and appealing is when Utley and Co. create something that transcends any genre. “Murder on My Soul,” while perhaps designed with “murder ballad” intent, is a hovering, spooky slice of ethereal soul-searching that recalls the ghostly Indie Folk of artist like Midlake and Fleet Foxes.
Nothing As It Was announces Mark Utley as one of the finest songwriters in the area.
He and the amazing band he’s assembled have a knack for crafting something that is both traditional and refreshing. Fans of Roots music old and new will find Magnolia Mountain’s latest one of the more enchanting albums they’ll hear all year. (markutley.com)
Indie Rock quartet Cash Flagg unveils its new CD, a selftitled five-track EP, with a release show Saturday at Northside Tavern. The free show also features D-Dub and The Jellyhearts.
Featuring Shawn Bracken, former singer/guitarist for Roots Rock faves The Stapletons, as well as former members of The Woos, Cash Flagg dives into the Indie Rock aesthetic of the mid-to-late ’90s. The songs are pretty stripped-down and straightforward, with the exception of Brendan Bogosian’s wiry, imaginative guitar lines. But the rawness works well on tracks like “Like a Ghost,” as Bracken’s airy rasp gives way to a shout straight off of a 1997 Sub Pop single. Closer “Black Lines = White Lines,” with its call-andresponse vocals, strutting rhythm and soaring chorus, stands as the album’s best track, possessing some of the unpredictability missing from the other tracks.
A solid live band, Cash Flagg’s debut EP doesn’t stack up quite as well. Though it points to a promising future, the EP still has the sound of a band not 100 percent on the same page. (myspace.com/therealcashflagg)
More Local Notes
• Newcomers State Song perform Friday at Northside Tavern with Mallory and Sybris. Featuring drummer George Jesse, singer/guitarist Scot Torres and bassist Matt Hemmingway, the band mixes punchy Post Punk with an inventive Indie Rock/Pop streak. State Song is currently working on new music with hopes for a summer full-length release. (myspace.com/statesong)
• On Sunday, a benefit for community radio station ClassX (88.9 FM; classxradio.com) takes place at Cardi’s Bar and Grille in Fairfield. The station, which survives on public donations, has proven itself an ardent local music supporter, airing the locals-friendly programs Kindred Sanction (Tuesdays at 8 p.m.) and Next Big Thing Show (hosted by musician Bob Cushing Mondays at 8 p.m.). Performing at Sunday’s 4 p.m. benefit: Sonny Moorman Group, Cushing, Okeanas, Dallas Moore Band and Prizoner.
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