Austin, Texas based folk and bluegrass duo The Reeling Kind was formed about two years ago. They consist of guitarist/singer Eric Batiste and mandolin player Christian Leal. The pair met while working together at a coffee shop and started jamming. At that time Leal had just picked up the mandolin and after a mild realization Batiste decided to put down his telecaster and pick up a martin to concentrate on flat picking.
Though The Reeling Kind remain a duo, they engaged a few extra folks to play on their debut EP Close Encounters. The pair brought on a few local musicians including Eddie Dickerson (fiddle) of The Lost Pines and Fog and Bone, Kyle Clayton (bass) of The Lost Pines, and James Bookert (banjo) of The Whiskey Shivers.
The Reeling Kind wanted with Close Encounters to get as close to a live sound as possible, to make it seem as though the listener was right there in the room. I think they achieved this goal rather nicely. The instruments are crisp, the twangs pop and strings whine, as though they were only a few feet away. Also for a group of musicians who hadn’t really played together all that often or if at all before the four songs on Close Encounters definitely sound just as tight as a band that has been playing together for years.
The feelings are two-fold on the sad but beautiful opener “I Can’t Say,” as the song itself has great and catchy swells of dirge-like bluegrass folk that draws you in, but Batiste’s lyrics paint a rather dissonant picture. Close Encounters picks up speed, literally there is some fine flat picking going on here, and its outlook on “Like You Said,” and is reminiscent of the country addled tunes on the Stones Beggars Banquet. After the first two songs with their appealing backing band the mostly acoustic “Where’d You Go” seems a little too stark. Though they make up for it on the closer “Leave Her Behind You,” which recalls both early Andrew Bird and the less radio-friendly era Decemberists.
Close Encounters is a really great folk and bluegrass record, especially considering the core duo have only really been picking away at their instruments for a few years now, and also that they had a pop up recording session that sounds far from impromptu. Even if you’re not into folk and bluegrass I think Close Encounters would be an excellent gateway drug to get you hooked.
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