Somewhere between a bohemian carnival and a backwoods hoedown lies the purely unique sound of Acoustic Syndicate. This captivating quartet has been churning the soil between well-worn bluegrass paths and acoustic exploration since their inception on the family farm more than a decade ago. The band�s next stop, Terra Firma, their Sugar Hill debut, finds them standing on solid ground.
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�This new disc reflects five more years of our maturity,� said guitarist and singer Steve McMurry. �The planet could blow up tomorrow so there�s really no point in bickering with each other today. We all come from the same place and ultimately we have no guarantees.� A timely concept in light of current events, the Syndicate again projects purpose over politics. �I�m not qualified to tell people what they should think,� adds Steve. �I just know that a lot of music out there doesn�t send a very good message and people want to be where it feels good.�
With more than music in common, songwriter Steve teamed up with his cousins Bryon and Fitz McMurry after college for an almost cellular connection through song. �They can read each other�s minds sometimes,� said Syndicate bassist Jay Sanders. Influenced by a deep appreciation for their mountain roots and a great affection for their New Wave adolescence, the McMurry boys blended their organic ideas from the start.
Many say that Steve �Big Daddy� McMurry is the leader of the band. Certainly, no one can deny his power as lead vocalist, nor his exceptional guitar work, but it's the bands songs that distinguish them as truly unique artists. The choruses are soaring melodies that entice you to sing along, and the memorable phrases stick in your head long after the song is over.
Bryon McMurry�s agility and prowess on the five-string banjo cannot be considered the band�s bluegrass badge. �Bryon is a guitar player who�s playing the banjo,� said brother Fitz. �His whole sense of rhythm is based on the guitar and he plays the banjo in a context that is totally different from what most people think of as banjo bluegrass. �Just because we have a banjo doesn�t mean we only play bluegrass.� Bryon makes the banjo cry on a pop tune, hum on a reggae roll or burn down the track on a Syndicate original. �He�s been playing that thing since he was a little kid,� said Fitz. �He�s never played it like it had limits.�
Adding the percussive powerhouse to the Syndicate, Fitz gave up the congas years ago for a full drum kit. �We needed more of a driving force in the band,� he said. �We started out just hearing the drums and nobody played them. But I always heard the rhythm and percussion in music. I had worked out the drum parts to all the songs Steve had written before I started playing them.� Fitz counts on the flexibility and expertise of bassist Jay Sanders for what often amounts to the Syndicate�s erratic heartbeat. �We can swing at a moments notice,� he said. �If Jay changes things up I�m chasing right behind him and he does the same to me. He�s really part of our core.�
Jay Sanders is an active mountain music maker who adds a formidable balance to the kin drenched Syndicate clan. As does saxophonist Jeremy Saunders, the band�s unofficial fifth member who adds a powerful pulse to the strongly laid Terra Firma release. �I thought it was possible for another instrument to compliment us but it never occurred to me what would stand out as a strong soloist,� said Steve, �Until I heard Jeremy�s horn.�
�Those guys are a perfect fit,� said Fitz about the band�s non-related members. �And that isn�t always easy when you�re walking into so much history.�
The McMurry�s grew up loving the traditional hymns that their parents would sing at home, but it wasn�t until after leaving the family farm that the relatives would understand their rich musical heritage. �We�d gather around the piano and sing with our aunts and uncles who had these amazing voices,� said Steve. �I thought everybody did that.�
Not quite. Nor do most musicians put up produce on the farm, gather molasses when the sweet season comes around or drop by for fresh water when someone�s well goes out � all part of this very contemporary band�s modern day life.
�It�s been an accidental evolution,� said Steve. �But if there�s one thing you can never accuse us of it�s target marketing. We sing honest music as straight from the heart as we possibly can and I think our fans sense that.�
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