Deep beneath the muddied surface of the Tar River and the sifted soil of tobacco fields lays the history of our state. Layered stories from past generations have formed the foundation upon which all other stories are told.
This month, local songstress Rebekah Todd adds her own stories to the thick NC bedrock with her first LP, “Roots Bury Deep.” Funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign, this 9-track album proves to be a soulful folk gem with shades of jazz and funk that paints across the canvas of genres, all while maintaining a cohesiveness that keeps the listener engaged.
With this album, Todd enlisted some of the best that Greenville has to offer. Local musicians Demetrice Everett (drums), Chris Knuckles (saxophone), Evan Roberson (trombone), William Seymour (bass), and Brandon Shamar (keys) lend their talents and create a more textured auditory landscape that enhances Todd’s traditional folk sound. The final product takes listeners on a journey from the deep, dark corners of loss and despair to the wide-open, bright spaces of love and hope.
The album opens with “Devil’s Gonna Buy,” a ghostly, Bourbon Street bender flushed out with whiney trombone and eerie background vocals fit for the dark, gritty alleyways of New Orleans. This track jumps right into “Closer To Dead,” which shines with gospel undertones as the organ and saxophone emerge in line with the supernatural opener.
The catchy radio hit “On The Run” features a punchy cadence and baseline reminiscent of Paul Simon’s “Graceland.” While the title may imply runaway-bride-syndrome, this track is all about empowerment and drive — an important message for anyone who may need a nudge in life. The stripped-down acoustic “Thinking About You” takes a softer, day-dreamy glimpse into Todd’s past, where she opens up about the gripping realization that life is quite incompatible without love.
On “Tornado,” Todd channels her heartaches into powerhouse vocals and tempts the heavens, while reminding listeners that the only way to trump adversity is to face it head-on. “Your Smiling Face” is a toe-tap-clapper with a steam engine drum line fitted with enough spunk to become a crowd favorite.
Todd’s songwriting truly gleams on “Old Days,” a track that traces Todd back through time where she bears the pain of loss, but finds comfort in reliving memories and relishing in the little signs from above. The title track “Roots Bury Deep” follows, and proves once again this songstress’ lyrical prowess as she belts “Let me take you back to the rhythm/Back to the time when you felt only love in my arms/Let me take you back to the country where your roots bury deep/And the soil is rich for all.”
The album closes with “Wishing Well,” an eight-minute magical woodland wonder that captures Todd at a vulnerable crossroad, gazing into her reflection and foreshadowing her path. The horns on this track fade in gently to compliment Todd’s vocal tones and ride the song out as an instrumental. Roberson and Knuckles trade off leads, as if improvising a conversation between Todd’s yesterdays and tomorrows. This track is a beautiful tribute to the fragile nature of life and all of the events and decisions that guide its course.
Throughout “Roots Bury Deep,” Todd’s superb songwriting ties itself closely to the earth — the soil, the roots, the elements. In a world bogged down by technology and the next new trend, Todd keeps things clean, simple and organic, focusing on the most primal of emotions.
Todd’s poignant and powerful vocals reign supreme on each track, with the force to puncture even the toughest of exteriors. However, it is clear to any listener that the backing band elevates Todd’s signature sound to an entirely new level. The horns and organ pull out a speakeasy soul from Todd’s voice that was not yet fully developed on her 2011 EP “Forget Me Not.”
Overall, “Roots Bury Deep” translates as a potent collection of Todd’s most intimate stories. The album reveals that Todd has matured not only as a songwriter, but also as a performer as she displays a renewed confidence in her music. As with any artist, it is important to evolve and grow, and with this album Todd shows that she is capable and comfortable in her own skin, all while staying grounded by her roots.
“Roots Bury Deep” will be released officially February 18, 2014, and will be available on iTunes, Bandcamp, Amazon and more. For more information about her Greenville and Raleigh album release parties, be sure to keep up with Todd on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or at www.rebekahtodd.com.
Enjoy the title track here!