Cast Iron Filter| 01.16.04 | The Pour House | Raleigh, NC
Cast Iron Filter is a band searching for its own sound. Bursting out of Charlotte, NC in 1998 they've quickly plied a unique niche, carving out an original style they call Irongrass. It's bluegrass-based with unmistakable rock exuberance, Celtic overtones with a jamband philosophy. Guitar and mandolin fly over funky bass and a driving beat as soulful vocals are belted out with a deep grunting punch.
The Pour House in Raleigh, NC has been hosting young bands across a wide musical spectrum for over five years. The two-story venue in the heart of downtown Raleigh features a game room on the second floor with a balcony overlooking the stage. Their calendar is jam-packed with jam bands, from younger acts like Snake Oil Medicine Show and Barefoot Manner to legends including Peter Rowan & Tony Rice and the Grateful Dead's Vince Welnick. The club was packed on this Friday night to see Cast Iron Filter, and the band rolled into Raleigh ready to play.
They opened with lead singer/acoustic guitarist Dustin Edge spinning the downtrodden tale of "Further Down the Line." Mike Orlando's mandolin soared through the intense changes and Irish phrases of the instrumental "Tamarack" before he switched to banjo for the catchy crunch of "Kamikaze Man." Edge's harmonica lent a plaintive twang to the end of the road-weary story as his guitar eased into the sublime opening of "27 Dollars and a Wedding Ring." Their lyrics embody grassroots populism, telling stories of car races, drinking binges, and love on the run. Dark lyrics fight with an upbeat musical message, reflecting the inherent hope that it's indeed possible to fight the blues with music. A world-wise weariness permeates the lyrics of "Take Me Home," with Edge singing, "Searching for a station while we're driving in your car/Moving right along to another joint/You telling me there ain't no way we gonna find it/And me telling you that ain't the point."
The elegant melodicism of "Black Mountain" featured the banjo picking a pastoral paean, while the instrumental "Sgt. Blue Kitty" saw the mandolin chopping away like an old Irish fiddle tune. Cast Iron Filter's traditionalist taste met their newgrass nuances head on in this song, as Phil Skipper's electric bass glimmered with pop flourishes and funky undercurrents. The first set wrapped up with "Ricky Dunbar," the opening track from their latest record Live From the Highway. Brian Burton's drums provided the anchor, adding tasty runs and smashes to accent the sound as they headed into intermission with a huge burst of energy.
The vocal harmonies of "Louisville, KY" opened the second set, adding gospel flavors to their country blues groove. "Well, hi ho, here I go/Back to the land where the bluegrass grows/Hum a little tune to the guitar and mandolin/So take my hand and I hope you'll see/That I got you and you got me/When the harmony's rising over the mountains again." The band really tore loose in "Running Free" on their way to the disillusionment of "Temptress of Washington:" "She's just blowing in the wind/She's lighting up her life and not trying to pretend."
The set rolled on with the aggressively melancholy "Paradise in Palestine/Catherine's Song" and the old-world rhapsodic rhythms of "Wreckless." They wrapped up the set with "SOKY Fair," whose pumping verses wedged home the despondent lyrics over tight harmonies. Edge's guitar and harmonica opened the three-song encore, which included "The Runaway Song," as the band wrapped up a raucous show in front of a faithful audience. Cast Iron Filter succeeded in sharing their wide-ranging sound, bridging old-time instrumentals with a new modern vitality. They're on tour now across the South. You can check out tour dates and sound samples at www.castironfilter.com.
Their all-inclusive sound is summed up well in the lyrics to "SOKY Fair:" "Put on your clothes/Whatever you wear/And drink to us and all we share."
Words by: Paul Kerr
Images from: www.castironfilter.com
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