If a story from western North Carolina Acoustic Syndicate has never been written, there is no doubt that a central theme will be the group’s astonishing ability to bring together multiple influences into a distinct musical identity that transcends genres. It is part of their legacy as pioneers of jamgrass whose music has both remained rooted in the unique environment of their territory and has won over followers across the country and beyond. Reflecting this innate adventurous spirit, their new single for Organic Records pays homage to one of the great songs and bands of the modern era with a version inspired by the 1970 Velvet Underground classic, “Rock and Roll”.
Performed in the same key as the first recording from 1970, the song opens with an acoustic version of the opening riff from Velvet Underground that serves both as a memory refresh and as a notice that the band has put their own stamp on it. Lou Reed’s legendary hymn to the power not only of music in general, but rock and roll in particular, to transform a life. The same musical double vision permeates the entire track, with guitarist Steve McMurry echoing a signature track from Lou Reed’s guitar playing balanced by an acrobatic – and, of course, entirely new – banjo solo from vocalist Bryon McMurry. , and Fitz McMurry’s recap of Mo Tucker’s nervous drums contrasted with a crescendo of wordless vocals from all three, with bassist Jay Sanders, who built themselves up for a dramatic finish that’s distinct from the original, but perfectly consistent with the original.
Although he won’t take the lead vocals, the song has special meaning for Steve McMurry, who helped bring the idea to the recording studio – special enough that he not only remembered the circumstances, but from the exact date it was presented:
“The first time I heard the song ‘Rock and Roll’ from The Velvet Underground was on September 10, 1984. I had just finished high school, moved to a new town and had moved to a new city. enrolled in Gaston College’s HVACR School of Technology. It was the first day of class and I was early; I was listening to 95Q in Charlotte… when it was still a legitimate rock’n’roll station. I was sitting in the parking lot of a strange place, in a strange city, preparing to take a new path that I had no previous experience with… feeling quite alone and quite nervous.
“Around 8:15 am, the song started. By the time he entered the first big melody of the chorus, I was hooked; I had it cranked up about as hard as it could get and remember totally hitting my head in my 1977 Toyota Celica GT with the custom supercharged audio system. I didn’t know who the Velvet Underground was at the time, and actually thought it was something new. I stayed in the car and listened to two more songs before the DJ (and I swear it was Larry Sprinkle) came back to call the tunes —’… and it all starts with a Lou Reed classic and The Velvet Underground. ‘ Suffice it to say my day started off much better than I expected. I think I literally walked into the classroom to start the early stages of my first career in a very positive and positive way.
“I had no history with The VU and I kind of forgot about it. A few years later my friend, Mark Elam, introduced me to the band and Lou Reed. Mark is definitely the aficionado. most accredited and read VU I know of, and it has delved deep into the history and material of the band and Lou, as far as one can possibly go without moving to New York. Thanks, Mark, for your long-standing contribution to my music catalog!
“To this day, I can’t hear Velvet Underground’s ‘Rock and Roll’ without having that little butterfly in my stomach and immediately returning to that fall morning in 1984… hope for the future.”
Hear Acoustic Syndicate’s take on “Rock and Roll” HERE.