Every now and then in this journal I am prompted to remark on and refresh my own appreciation for music’s capacity to surprise and thereby achieve something insanely rarified and special in this journey we call life. As we age, we are subject to repetitions of everything until, despite ourselves, we grow inured. Even in our delightfully diverse field of roots/Americana music, the nuances that distinguish one rad/trad band from another can be subtle indeed. We who adore this music can appreciate the abundant quality and integrity out there without necessarily feeling that rush of utter novelty and distinctiveness. But then, it happens. A song begins with the same old instruments but an arresting jolt. The feeling may not even be entirely pleasurable, but inexplicably electrifying.
Such was my reaction to Cicada Rhythm, a rustic yet refined duo from that geographic font of musical surprise Athens, GA. I encourage you to read their romantic origin story at our site, but in short, Andrea DeMarcus had just graduated from Juilliard with a degree on the double bass (was she trying to steal my heart?). Dave Kirslis was a modern day roustabout who’d literally taken to riding trains and teaching himself folk guitar. When they met in back in their home state of Georgia, there were sparks of all kinds, and a new partnership was launched. It’s taken just two or three years for their duo (plus extended instrumentation gig to gig) to earn a reputation for filling halls and knocking audiences out. They’re playing shows with so many of our favorite bands we’re losing count: The Honeycutters, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, HoneyHoney, Elephant Revival, Sessions Americana, and you get the idea.
For me though, the excitement comes straight off their 2015 debut self-titled album. DeMarcus and Kirslis have voices with the strength and knottiness of tone wood. They cut here and sooth there. She sounds a bit like Billie Holliday from the mountains, while her bass plays a huge role in the music’s overall tone. He bears a vocal resemblance to Oliver Wood, along with a similar rangy touch on the guitar. Their melodies course unpredictably, as in the woozy “Walking Late” and they prove they can play with timeless country simplicity on “In The Garden.” Adding to these musical delights is my fondness for cicadas, those weirdly friendly over-sized insects that periodically invade and make an unearthly sound in the trees. So in this case, the buzz on the street about them is tantamount to the buzz we feel when such intoxicating sounds are made by human folk.