Tellico- Relics and Roses review   Leave a comment


Unless members tell you directly, one sometimes never knows what happens to bands that simply fade from view. One day they are playing dates and releasing albums, and next thing you know three or more years have gone by, and you think to yourself one day, Whatever happened to…?

Dehlia Low released a few independent albums before Rebel Records picked up what would be their final recording, the very strong Ravens & Crows. Tellico is 3/5 of Dehlia Low along with new mandolin and banjo player Jed Willis. Holdovers from Dehlia Low are beautifully-voiced fiddler and guitarist Anya Hinkle, bassist and singer Greg Stiglets, and Aaron Ballance, a Dobro player of considerable talent- I really like what he does on this recording.

By the time of Ravens & Crow’s 2011 release, Dehlia Low was not a traditionally sounding bluegrass band, although their sound was well-rooted in traditional acoustic music. I wrote then that, “with roots in bluegrass and mountain music, this smooth-sounding outfit doesn’t just sing about little cabins, faithlessness, and Glory; their approach blends acoustic country and bluegrass into a fresh-sounding, banjo-less amalgam that is bright and firm, revealing a mettle that is as impressive as it is non-traditional.”

Relics and Roses finds the group having purposefully drifted further afield from bluegrass, firmly into the boundless genre that is Americana while retaining their strong affinity for  the sounds of Appalachia. Based in Asheville, NC, Tellico presents a very clean sound that isn’t muddled by contemporary pop influence. My previous description of the group remains apt, except they have added clawhammer-style banjo to select tracks.

This album is comprised of ten originals, evenly split between Hinkle and Stiglets, along with a take on Neil Young’s 1970s song, “White Line-River of Pride.” There are no shortage of highlights.

The album starts off with three terrific songs, “Backstep Blues,” “Calamity,” and “Can’t Go Home Again,” each of which should find favour with those who appreciate songs that come with a bit of story. Stiglets’ “I Want to Know” is another fabulous number, with Hinkle singing his slightly mysterious lyrics in a manner that makes this lover’s refrain tangible. “Lean into It” has a similar mood if entirely different feel, a bit of hopeless love strengthened by resolve borne of less than ideal circumstances.

“Mexico 1995” is a travelogue of fading naiveté, while “Hawkeye Pierce and Honeycutt Blues” is less linear than I might like, but entirely enjoyable. With its clawhammer overtones, my favourite track is likely “Ever What They Say,” a lonely, even melancholy, song. I absolutely love Hinkle’s voice- it is low and a bit husky, but still light and lively.

“Foresaken Winds” is one that sneaks up on you, and it is here that one really appreciates Hinkle’s unusual voice: it sounds like she is holding a marble in her mouth—which reads poorly I know, but isn’t meant to—causing her to sing around the obstruction, resulting in a unique, fuller presentation of her words. I realize that makes next to no sense, but I can’t describe it otherwise.

Tellico won’t appeal to those who are looking only for straight-ahead bluegrass. But, if you are able to wander the ditches a little and appreciate the grasses rubbing against your calves, Tellico might just be a group that will settle in and become a favourite. Relics and Roses is a mighty interesting Americana recording.

Thanks for continuing to visit and support Fervor Coulee.



Posted 2015 June 14 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

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