By Christopher Gaspar
Nestled away in the heart of the Western North Carolina (WNC) mountains, a new project is starting to emerge in the Southeastern music circuit. Formed in the spring of 2005, Mother Vinegar is a high-energy rock quartet that is as adept at playing metal music as they are with displaying pop sensibilities. Their sound is an eclectic mix of hard rock, quirky funk, and heavy metal, with a taste of blues and punk. Truly an amalgam of sounds, when asked who the band most closely resembles, they countered with a diverse mix of Beck, J.J. Cale, Metallica, Ween, Primus, and Sonny Rollins. Principle songwriter Karl Engelmann inflates the group's live shows by adding humorous antics to the music as he stomps around the stage shredding on his guitar.
Construction of the band started when Jake Cinninger (Umphrey's McGee) informed Kevin Cassels (drummer) that Engelmann (guitar) had relocated to rural WNC. Having been a huge fan of Engelmann's music, Cassels went on a manhunt to track him down to inquire about starting a project together. Currently residing in Asheville, Cassels was engulfed in the Atlanta rock scene for many years with different projects but is best known as being one of the lead contributors to The Pharmers Almanac: Volume 6. You may be familiar with Engelmann for his work with cult favorite Ali Baba's Tahini as well as for his penning of several Umphrey's McGee concert mainstays such as "Partyin' Peeps," "Syncopated Strangers," and "Bright Lights Big City." Cassels admits he was a bit rusty when he first got back behind the kit, but his chemistry with Engelmann was genuine and their shared vision and great potential trumped any rough beginnings.
Kevin Cassels :: Mother Vinegar
Needing another guitar player to bolster the frontline, Cassels tapped one of his favorite performers from the area, Tommy Dennison. Nicknamed "The North Carolina Shredder," the accomplished guitarist has been a fixture of the Southeastern music circuit for nearly a decade, sending many people into a frenzy with his heavy metal axe. Dennison is a second generation guitarist, following in the footsteps of his father Steve Dennison, one of the most respected musicians in the Southeast United States. With another guitar player in the fold, the band cut tracks for nearly a year before meeting their low end, bassist Jeff Hinkle. Cassels and Hinkle ended up converging on the same party one night, jammed together on some cheesy 80's material, did a keg stand, and from there the quartet was formed.
Tommy Dennison :: Mother Vinegar
The main premise behind their project is to flex musically, but without sacrificing the key ingredients: songwriting and structure. Having recently put the finishing touches on their debut release, the band has made the record available for purchase in time for the new year. If you are searching for a heavy rock song with crunchy guitars, you may want to check out "Big Dreams." It is a catchy tune with a fat chorus, complete with a Satriani-infused guitar solo by Dennison. "Pimp in a Pinch" is a funky number, which Engelmann sings emphatically through a telephone onstage. Resembling old Fat Albert 70's funk, it contains a couple different guitar solos by the frontline and the emergence of a kazoo in the chorus. "Wishful Thinking," one of their newer songs not found on the album, features a long bass-filled intro that melts into a breezy middle section, while "Ferris-Wheeled City" is a surf-style heavy rocker about a legendary pub in South Bend where Ali Baba's Tahini and Umphrey's McGee used to perform.
Still relatively new on the scene, the band is focused on cultivating a solid fan base, while continually searching for ways to get more people in front of the stage. Fans of hard rock, indie-folk, and funky metal would be the most interested in their material; however, they draw fans from the jam scene because of the myriad of styles they play. While they may be a bit heavier than most so-called "jambands," they have already received a glowing endorsement from tour heavyweights Umphrey's McGee, for whom they opened back in October at the Orange Peel. Mother Vinegar is hosting the moe. after-party at the Grey Eagle in Asheville on December 30, serving as a warm-up to New Year's Eve festivities across the city. As the year comes to a close, do not be surprised if there are some special guests stopping by the Grey Eagle on a night dedicated to hard rock and mayhem in the mountains of WNC.
JamBase | North Carolina
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