The Meldavians represent the coming together of three major talents all out of North Carolina: vocalist and acoustic guitarist Melissa Reaves, guitarist Scott Sawyer and keyboardist Dave Fox. All of them have already made their mark as leaders, and have toured and recorded with major acts. Fox and Sawyer are also area music educators, and Reaves and Fox can compose. We already know a thing or two about Fox, who collaborated with Bruce Eisenbeil on one of my favorite whack jazz discs of 2009.
Collectively, there’s no kind of music these three haven’t mastered: rock, soul, blues, funk, jazz, folk, experimental and even classical. By extension, The Meldavians — nominally a rock band — goes in whatever direction that feels good to them. That’s the charm and allure of their newly-released debut album made with the help of guest bass players, drummer and percussionists, called Farewell Arigemon.
As good as Fox and Sawyer make as musicians, a good rock band needs a good frontperson, and Reaves fits the bill just dandy. She’s got enough sass, enough swagger and enough passion to keep us entertained no matter the material, and with that material (mostly written by either Fox or Reaves) being so wide-ranging, it’s her vocal that ties it all together and gives this record coherency. She can deliver a ballad like “I Remember You” with convincing sincerity and just as assuredly, turn around and belt out a burning blues rocker such as “You Better Never Mess Around.”
Elsewhere, the repertoire pivots from the Little Feat boogie of “Have I Told You?” and the Professor Longhair second line of “A Lot Less Philosophy” to the butt-shakin’ funk of “Dance Of The Milleners,” and the hard rockin’ “New Rock Song.” “Farewell Arigemon” has jazzy prog tendencies and “The Burning Of Oliste’s Palace” even ventures into whack jazz territory, or whack something. In any case, I like the gumption they show in delving into challenging, improvisational material and put it in the middle of a rock album.
All this diversity would mean little if they didn’t have the aptitude to do it right. They have it, and more importantly, they seem to mix it up for the right reasons: for the love of music of all stripes. The members Meldavians like to fancy themselves as being from some faraway planet, but aliens never made music so firmly grounded into so many earthly music forms.
Farewell Arigemon was self released last January. Visit The Meldavians’ website for more info.