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    Blue Merle

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    Most Popular Songs (more)

    1Boxcar Racer lyrics
    2Every Ship Must Sail Away lyrics
    3Made to Run lyrics
    4Seeing Through You lyrics
    5Burning in the Sun lyrics
    6Either Way It Goes lyrics
    7Stay lyrics
    8Lucky to Know You lyrics
    9Part of Your History lyrics
    10Places lyrics

    Most Popular Albums (more)

    1Burning in the Sun [2005]
    2Live at Bull Moose Music [2005]


    Walking into the club, you look up at the stage in anticipation of the evening's performance, curious about this band Blue Merle. But instead of the usual array of electric guitars and stacked amps, what you see are acoustic guitar, mandolin, violin, upright bass and drums. "The people file in, and they're looking at the stage, seeing these instruments. And until we step out onto the stage and pick them up, I think they're expecting something else." says Blue Merle's Beau Stapleton. "Something else," indeed.

    Blue Merle is a band that doesn't simply defy expectations; it renders them irrelevant. Despite its mostly acoustic instrumentation, the band is well practiced at the art of catching an audience unawares and transporting it to a place of pure rock pleasure. It's a trick they've honed through heavy roadwork -- whether opening for the likes of J.J. Cale, Badly Drawn Boy and Jem, or playing festivals ranging from Farm Aid to Bonnaroo - and perfect with their Island debut, Burning in the Sun.

    Between the scruffy sweetness of Luke Reynolds' rough, expressive tenor and the orchestral richness of the band's intricate arrangements, Burning in the Sun is an album that is easy to get lost in. Produced by Stephen Harris (U2, Dave Matthews Band, Kula Shaker), its sound is immediately inviting and disarmingly nuanced. Some songs, such as the string-drenched "Every Ship Must Sail Away" and "If I Could," are lush with harmony and emotional portent, while others - particularly the insinuatingly propulsive "Boxcar Racer" and "Either Way It Goes" - bubble over with rhythmic energy and melodic allure. Throughout, the music carries the sort of inventiveness and depth of feeling found only in the best rock songwriting.

    "We have a rule in this band that the best song wins," says Reynolds, and whatever it takes to get a song to be as good as it can is what we do. It's not unusual for us to spend hours in rehearsal, working and re-working a song so that by the time we perform it, everyone in the band is fully committed."

    Blue Merle was born when Reynolds met bassist Jason Oettel, and the two began to work on some of the singer/guitarist's songs. "We really connected," says Reynolds, and he wasn't the only one to feel that way. A friend working at Sony ATV studios in Nashville offered some free studio time, and while the two were cutting demos the president of Sony Publishing unexpectedly dropped by. "He offered us a production deal and a publishing deal," says Reynolds. They ultimately passed on the deal, but were amazed by the offer. "That was four months into our being a band, so it came really fast," he adds.

    Despite that auspicious beginning, Blue Merle weren't in a rush to add members. Reynolds met Beau Stapleton - a mandolin-playing disciple of Neil Young and Sonic Youth - on a trip back home to Vermont, and got on so well that he soon invited Stapleton to join the band. William Ellis, a jazz-trained drummer who had become a successful session player in Nashville, was a college buddy of Oettel's, and came on to complete the rhythm section not long afterward.

    It was Ellis who came up with the band's name. "It's actually a lyric from a Led Zeppelin song, 'Bron Y Aur Stomp' -- 'Tell your friends all around the world/There ain't no companion like a blue-eyed Merle,'" says Reynolds. "Will is a huge Zeppelin fan, and used to pull out all these fragments from Zeppelin songs, and keep them for potential band names."

    Guitar, mandolin, upright bass and drums isn't typical rock band instrumentation, but that's turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Blue Merle. "There wasn't a lot of thought put into the instrumentation," says Reynolds. "We just met musicians we really loved playing with, and whatever they played, that was the thing that came."

    "It's actually simpler to work with," says producer Harris. "It's a fresh feeling, and pleasing on the ear. You don't have to knock the listener on the head. And that's the whole thing with the band - they have subtlety, which is beyond many people these days." "Subtlety is what makes Blue Merle what it is," agrees Reynolds. "The lyrics, the melody, the musicianship - it's all there, but it's never right in your face. There's a confidence to it, and you can feel it in the music."


    Blue Melre disbanded in 2006, but Reynolds released an awesome solo album called Pictures and Sound. Reynolds, who played a dozen instruments on the Pictures And Sound album including pedal steel, guitars and keyboards, is joined by his friends Dave Wilder (Macy Gray, Liz Phair) on bass and Pete McNeal (Jem, Z-Trip, Ricki Lee Jones) on drums, to create an album that is modern in its arrangements and soundscapes yet a throw back to an era when songs were written and recorded in a more organic atmosphere.

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