Merge Local Access Sessions: Vol. 1

Out Here

Various Artists

(Atlantic Records)

If nothing else, Chip Adams has done his best to promote local bands and musicians, using Local Access, his hour-long Sunday-night show on Merge Radio (93.3 FM), to spotlight as much area talent as 60 minutes will allow. Sure, Cary Pierce (of Jackopierce, um, fame?) appears on his playlist occasionally, but you have to believe that is the work of Adams' bosses, shoehorning their "coolrocksmartpop" agenda onto his show. For the most part, Adams and Local Access regularly show off the diverse nature of Dallas-Denton-Fort Worth music, not focusing on one faction at the expense of another. With that kind of mindset, however, only the most stalwart local music fan can sit through the entire hour; there aren't many people who want to hear Slow Roosevelt into Pleasant Grove into Doosu into The Deathray Davies into Sugarbomb into Baboon, and on and on. The fact is, you don't get much overlap at local gigs: People go hear bands that sound like the other ones they go hear and ignore all the rest. Everyone does it.

Fortunately for Adams, he hooked up with one of the few people around who wouldn't mind the aforementioned playlist, One Ton Records' Tony Edwards, to help him release the first collection of live songs recorded at Merge's studio. And despite assumptions to the contrary, based on One Ton's involvement, only two (Fixture and Valve) of the six bands that appear on the disc are affiliated with the label. With El Gato, Pleasant Grove, Pinkston, and Brasco rounding out the lineup, Local Access Sessions is as varied as Adams' playlist, at least on the surface. Thanks to the largely acoustic format (Pinkston's disc-closing "Watching You Steal" is one of the few exceptions, and I believe it was actually recorded at Austin's Red Eyed Fly), all the bands sound strangely similar. With each band reduced to an acoustic guitar, voice, a slower tempo, and little else, it can't be helped.

Which seems to defeat the purpose of a disc like this: turning locals onto the talent in their own back yard. It's is an admirable goal, though it doesn't mean much if you can't tell Fixture's "After Venus" from Valve's "Farther From Sight" or El Gato's "Lost in America (part 2)." Pinkston, thanks to the presence singer-bassist Beth Clardy Lewis, has less of a problem standing out, for obvious reasons. (All the other bands have male vocalists, in case you needed those dots connected.) Still, if you take each set of songs individually, there are a few highlights. Well, just two actually: Pleasant Grove's Marcus Striplin and Brett Egner proving they write the prettiest, saddest songs this side of Centro-matic's Navigational, and Fixture making me care about them for the first time ever. Guess Adams might have accomplished his mission after all.

Zac Crain


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