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Great Music, Mipso Facto 5.24.17

There have been multiple accounts of what Mipso means, including a Japanese phrase that suggests something familiar but with a hint of strangeness. That sure fits with not only their music but much of the progressive roots we seek out. And it could cover well the insightful music of this week’s MCR, which kicked off with the stellar North Carolina band bearing that weird name and cruised through country, Memphis blues and a classic Nashville songwriting duo.

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Whatever Mipso means precisely (and I embrace the mystery), we know they’re evolving with style. Drums by Yan Westerlund were a new addition. Joseph Terrell donned an electric guitar for much of the set. Lead vocals swapped around from Joseph to multi-instrumentalist Jacob Sharp to fiddler Libby Rodenbough. Her singing on opener “Coming Down The Mountain” was lush and on closer “Water Runs Red” was moody and emotional. That tune grew into a lusty jam that really defined the set.

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“Time, will blow your mind,” sang Matt Urmy in his opening lines of “Renaissance Rodeo,” a tune with shades of John Prine’s wise wit. Backed by Matt Roley on bass and Steve Daly on electric guitar, Urmy sang with a raspy voice and a graceful country sway. “I’m Gone” had touches of Bob Dylan surrealism. “South of the Sky” closed the set with a nice sway and twangy touches from a baritone guitar.

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Amid a night of easy-going, mostly acoustic music, we needed a jab of voluminous funk and John Nemeth brought that right along. Wearing yellow tie-die coveralls, a pork pie hat and sci-fi sunglasses, he shook it, sang it and played it (on the harmonica). John’s a strong songwriter as was evident throughout. The blue and lonesome “Long Black Cadillac” offered slower contrast mid-set. I did not know what a “Kook Aid Pickle” is, but after the song I kind of got the idea.

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Our final act of the night epitomized song-driven, meticulously crafted Americana. Will Kimbrough is a longstanding star as a soloist, sideman and band member. Brigitte DeMeyer has been a refreshing voice from the West Coast. And their voices lock together with uncanny phrasing. The title track of their new duo album Mockingbird Soul just surges with melodic beauty. “The Juke” pushed the blues to the fore. “Honey Bee” tapped a pre War jazz vibe. This was deeply nourishing stuff.

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