The Believers

The Mermaid Lounge

December 07, 2004

When I can't immediately label a band's sound, that's best. That's when a band is unique and normally talented. This was the case Tuesday night at The Mermaid Lounge as The Believers played their curious mix of folk, country and gospel.

And I guess I only mention gospel because there was a moving soulfulness and grizzled optimism in the duo's music. Also because of vocalist/acoustic guitarist Cynthia Frazzini's almost operatic voice. It was beautiful and full of clear light. The kind of voice you're likely to hear in church. Frazzini and vocalist/acoustic guitarist/harmonica man Craig Aspen harmonized so well. Their songs were enjoyable ditties, but the real strength was their skilled singing. It seemed like both reached down low in their bellies in order to have lungs and lungs to give. They were never off-key. Though Frazzini had a small country accent, Aspen complented her radiant style with his more prominent, whiny twang.

The two were from Washington State, and their suitcase was filled onstage by their pint-sized bulldog. At least it looked like a bulldog. The dog's sleepy and calm manner added a fresh, living room atmosphere to the set.

Their material covered hopefulness, world-weariness, and rougher stuff like beer bottles and guns. These last two subjects were addressed on an up-tempo hillbilly admonition about life on the road. One highlight was Sugar Coated Kisses," a slow, sweet, spinning love song. They seemed like the ultimate romantics up there. Another highlight was a country jam that employed wavy, swinging strumming. 3/4 time.

It was sad that the dancefloor was empty and that some of the twenty in the bar were talking over the band. It was like the group was sticking an audition at The Grand Ole Opry and no one was listening. "We're just gonna be solid as all hell. Don't pay any attention." They didn't say that, but they could have. The band got a little more attention when they did a great cover of Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues." That's a lot of lyrics, and I was impressed they flowed like it wadn't no thang.

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