Getting Over You by Columbia, SC's Passing Worth is an unusual record. It's smooth, soulful, and sultry, warm as honeyed molasses and sweet as sun tea brewed in a jar covered in painted sunflowers. And yet, the sweetness doesn't quite crack the surface, like a smile that doesn't quite reach the eyes.
Getting Over You ranges from jaunty, upbeat keyboard pop, a la Ben Folds or Sir Elton John, with a kind of sweet soulful southernness, with jazzy country male/female vocal harmonies, from Alex Davis, Cassy Renee, and Moses Andrews. This soulfulness is about 10 times as effective as the keyboard pop, which can come across as brittle. The mid-tempo ballads like "Another Night", which sounds like an outtake of a Zooey Deschanel movie, is warmer, more engaging, more emotive. It pulls you in and makes you a part of the story.
Ms. Deschanel, with her She & Him project with M. Ward, is largely to blame for this unique dichotomy. Prior to 2005, Appalachian music had its devotees, but was largely relegated to informal bluegrass festivals in large fields. Starting in the mid-2000s, you started to hear more of the vinegary bite of '20s jazz, country, bluegrass, whatever the hell you want to call this style - the million offshoots and progeny of the Grand Ole Opry. This is no criticism, as I would rather hear Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? worship than 1,000 bland generic pop bands.
I think the mixture of sounds and styles, with its intimations of heartfulness and soul, makes Passing Worth more interesting and engaging than had they simply been a pop band trying to get on the radio. Except they sometimes do sound like a pop band trying to get on the radio, and it doesn't do them any favors.
For their next outing, I'd like to see Passing Worth pick more of a direction and run with it. Personally, I hope that direction is more in the folk tradition, but that's just me. Either way, I think it'd help Passing Worth's worth to stand out.
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