Still "king": Earnhart & friends take the Prism

The upcoming week is packed with great shows: Scene Creamers on Friday at Tokyo Rose (the new band of Ian Svenonius and Michelle Mae, formerly of D.C.-based The Make-Up); a CD release party for local bluegrassers Halfgrassd at Rapulzel’s on Saturday, and even the bound-to-be-enlightening battle of the UVA student bands at Jaberwoke on Thursday.
And though I had an amusing and fairly enlightening confrontational dialogue/interview with Scene Creamer’s Svenonious, you’ll have to tune in next week to hear some of the singer’s nuggets of truth. This week the CD release party for Brady Earnhart’s new full-length, Manalapan, at the Prism Coffeehouse on Saturday, March 1, is the big story.
Originally from Delray Beach, Florida, Earnhart began writing lyrically inclined folk songs in 1989. By ‘92 he had relocated to Charlottesville to pursue a Ph.D. in American literature at UVA, and it was here that his star began to rise.
Earnhart’s songs are simple and poignant, and their twists of phrase and humorous lines quickly drew the attention of members of the Charlottesville musical community. Local fame was not long in following: Browning Porter and Jeff Romano of local folk-duo Nickeltown ended up recording a few of his songs on their debut CD, Earnhart himself released his acclaimed debut, After You, in ‘98, and by 2000 the songwriter had orchestrated the creation of the King of My Living Room CD, featuring the live performances of many outstanding local musicians, who just happened to be his friends.
In fact, the credits to Manalapan read like the bill of the greatest local concert ever held, which speaks volumes about the level of esteem with which Earnhart is held in these parts.
Manalapan kicks off with the album’s title track, a sweet and mildly time-signature-bending folk/pop tune. “When I had to steal/You helped me make it look like mine & when my closet friend/had told me I’d worn my red carpet thin/you took me in Manalapan,” Earnhart sings in his strong but little embellished voice, over a background that immediately calls to mind the guitar-work of Nick Drake.
“Arlington” is next, probably my favorite tune in the set. A catchy but downtrodden melody floats on top of some of Earnhart’s carefully picked acoustic guitar, as the singer takes the first-person perspective of “a man with a gun looking for his ex-wife.” These two songs sum up the feel of the album– a soft, extremely personal voyage into the mind of its creator, where darkness seems to loom around many of the corners, but you sure enjoy the ride.
Although various other musicians perform on many of the CD’s tracks, Earnhart’s lightly played acoustic guitar and ringing voice dominate the album.
With lyrics that are soft, sad, but sometimes hilarious, Brady Earnhart is a songwriter of a particular breed– more Dylan than Lennon, more substance than flash, but definitely a shining light to watch.
Brady Earnhart CD Release Party: "Manalapan" with Jan Smith, Danny Schmidt, Nickeltown, and Lance Brenner (of the Naked Puritans) at the Prism Coffeehouse, March 1. $12/$10 advance, 8pm.

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