Music goers at the Mothlight Saturday were treated to one of the best rock shows Asheville will see this year, as Reigning Sound played a no-nonsense, hour-long set heavy on songs from their first LP in five years, “Shattered.”
The group, fronted by Asheville’s Greg Cartwright, doesn’t qualify as a “local band.” But Cartwright, who’s called the city home for the past decade, played to a room of familiar faces, giving the evening the slight air of a hometown gig.
Reigning Sound took the stage just after midnight, launching into the appropriately-titled opener for their initial offering on Durham’s Merge Records, “North Cackalacky Girl.” The melodies were clean and tight, augmented by the droning keyboard of Dave Amels and an occasional slide guitar. For long-time fans of the band, along with Cartwright’s other projects (which include the Oblivians and the Compulsive Gamblers), the new songs are a departure from the harsher, more raucous garage-rock sound the band became known for over the past decade. But Reigning Sound’s evenhanded take on rock and R&B sensibilities kept the crowd moving; be it toe-tapping to the soulful number “Starting New,” head banging on Too Much Guitar’s “Your Love Is a Fine Thing,” or dancing to the well-known hit off Time Bomb High School, “Stormy Weather.”
The band effortlessly played for an hour, with Cartwright politely counting down the crowd to their final three songs. There was no encore, and there really was no need for one. The music was simply good, and a delight to hear.
Praise for Reigning Sound’s new album is pouring in from critics, with writers describing the music as “soulful garage rock done better than everybody else who’s doing it” (Nashville Scene), to the kind of record “that so carefully meshes influence and originality that it sounds timeless” (PopMatters). One writer, for the AV Club, suggested Cartwright as “the answer to get” over Dan Auerbach and Jack White when someone eventually creates a “What garage-rock hero are you?” quiz online.
In many circles, Cartwright and his band are legends. With his ties to the area, local music lovers are lucky to have a reason for Cartwright and Reigning Sound to keep returning to Asheville—they’ll be back for the third time this year at Harvest Record’s 10th Anniversary bash, Transfigurations II (Aug. 28-30). That gives you plenty of time to get familiar with “Shattered,” which is sure to wind up on several year-end “best of” lists. And have you seen the full lineup for the festival? It’s gonna be a heck of a weekend.
No acknowledgement of the epic Telly Savalas act?