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Mipso

Dark Holler Pop – 2013 (Robust)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

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Every once in a while a group nails the description of just what it is they do without a critic or reviewer having to; the title of the latest from North Carolina's Mipso is one of those rare instances that captures the sound of the songs within. Dark holler pop indeed - aided by Mandolin Orange's Andrew Marlin on production and several instrumental guest turns on banjo and guitar, Mipso casts hopeful tunes within the shaded groves of winding Appalachian hills and valleys.

"Louise," featuring not only Marlin but his fellow Mandolin Orange member Emily Frantz, is a story song of "a couple of kids with a lot of love," but some hard luck, and how going away just brings you back home. Set to a loping rhythm accented by banjo and fiddle, it is, in turns, hopeful and realistic. Speaking of realism, "Red Eye To Raleigh" may be the first song ever to use both "laparoscopic cardiology" and "aching atrium" in reference to a broken heart.

There are plenty of young acts out there taking bluegrass and melding it into different forms, from Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers to Chatham County Line (whose John Teer plays fiddle here on "Tried Too Hard") and Red June. Mipso falls somewhere in the enjoyable middle without the jaw-dropping instrumental chops of the former or the chill-inducing lyricism of the latter, but possessed of enough honest, raw emotion to be a worthwhile side trip on one's way through the Blue Ridge Parkway of acoustic pop.