Nearly two decades into their career, this self-described “genre-bending” rural North Carolina-based band, led by brothers Bryon and Fitz McMurray and cousin Steve McMurry, seems to have explored nearly every corner of the stylistic map at one time or another. Their latest release manages to cover a little bit of everything from bluegrass-tinged acoustic folk to muscular rock n’ roll and power balladry infused with their robust familial harmonies.
But Acoustic Syndicate’s deepest appeal lies in their earnest search for a spiritual and emotional center of gravity on the shifting landscapes of a troubled and uncertain world. These guys don’t spend a whole lot of time on frivolity or passing fancy. They cut right to the existential core of modern life, with all its perplexities and conundrums.
The title tune and the deeply introspective “Bring Me Home” convey a dreamy, almost other-worldly struggle to find peace and enlightenment during dark times that seem to offer neither. The powerful “Man Inside” convey a man’s urgent struggle to overcome the mistakes and failures of his past and discover a better version of himself. “Simple Dream” conveys cautious hopefulness for a future world defined by unity rather than division.
The band does lighten things up considerably with a reprise of a playful old Grateful Dead romp called “Bertha” and a soulful rendition of rocker Lou Reid’s “Rock And Roll.” An added treat is a magnificent cover of Willie Nelson’s “Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground” that draws out all of the song’s unusual depth and pathos.
The picking throughout this collection has the muscular spontaneity of a live performance, which suggests these guys must put on one heck of a concert.