Monday, June 25, 2012

Review: Sinners & Saints "Stupid Little Songs"

There’s something about Charlotte singer-songwriter Perry Fowler that makes you want to root for him. Maybe it’s the natural charm he carries with him no matter if he’s waiting tables, in the audience enthusiastically watching his Charlotte music peers, or on stage both solo and with  Sinners & Saints (his band with Mark Baran). His demeanor is genial, never forced. The “Stupid Little Songs” on the new five track Sinners & Saints EP are no different. The group delivers countrified tales of love with twangy harmonies and rootsy instrumentation - harmonica, fiddle, etc. Those instruments blend well, but are still allowed room to breathe on songs like “Million Dollars” where you can hear strings plucked, a fiddle weeping, and the calculated strum of the guitar. It’s the kind of song you can imagine quieting a crowd at The Thirsty Beaver on a Sunday afternoon.

“Stupid Little Songs” is deeply Southern, but contemporary. Fowler’s phrasing on “I Don’t Want to Work” for instance reminds me of critically acclaimed Americana darling Jessica Lea Mayfield (who is from Ohio, so not exactly Southern), but delivered briskly. The song then whisks into a lovely harmonized refrain of “I don’t want to go to work/All I want to do is stay in bed with you” - a simple sentiment that succinctly captures that feeling of falling in love at the beginning of a relationship, talking into the wee hours, wanting to spend every minute together and making yourselves late for work. Anyone that’s fallen in love in that manner should relate to it.

That outlook carries into the next track “Have It All,” which is equally catching. The sentiment - “Seems like we’re all either searching for something or someone/Sometimes we settle for anything or anyone/What’s say we take the fall...we had those feeling whenever we was young and unafraid to have it all” - is more mature and reflective, as if looking back on a time when the romantic risks of the opening track were the norm. It could actually be interpreted as a critique on relationships, getting older, or even the way some consumers accept whatever’s easiest (mainstream radio, reality TV) and closest to access as they get older instead of seeking out quality in entertainment. That may be reading too much into it, but I like it when a song works on several different levels and allows the listener to come to a conclusion - and more than one at that.

“I’m No Good” is more of a downhome boot stomper and probably a bit less resonant than some of the more emotionally-anchored tracks. But as a faster, upbeat track it could be one of the strongest live.

The harmonies and instrumentation recall early Avett Brothers. “Stupid Little Songs” is marked by the same raw, rugged feel and harmonies that blend well without the singers’ voices all mashing together. You can hear the highs, the lows, and the in-betweens. Those qualities are most notable on the final track “The Odds."  Its matter-of-fact delivery of lines like “Don’t forget where you came from…we must all overcome” also remind me of those Avetts’ lines that inspire massive crowds to sing along often loudly overtaking the band.

Sinners & Saints play Snug Harbor Friday with Black Iron Gathering and Antique Animals. 9 p.m. $5. 704-333-9799; (Photo courtesy of the band's site at