Released on Record Store Day last weekend, Sawyer Sessions is a collection of 12 songs recorded "somewhere" in Hillsborough, North Carolina, in the last year. Since relocating to the small town, Yep Roc has tried to bring a bit of the label's soul to the area, having artists perform at restaurants, galleries and homes. The video sessions are posted on YouTube on the second Thursday of each month.
The album starts with "Tightrope of Love" by Chatham County Line. The audio might sound a bit distant, but a quick peek at the online video shows it was recorded around a single microphone, providing for varying levels as the song progresses.
The sweet vocal tones of Aoife O'Donovan, the deep, weathered warble of Dave Alvin and a simple solo acoustic performance by Robyn Hitchcock set an early tone. Jim White vs. the Packway Handle Band and Chuck Prophet at the back end of the album provide plenty of reason to listen all the way through; along with the album's closer, Peggy Sue's indie-rock "Idle."
Jonah Tolchin's simple "Diamond Mind" — presented as a solo acoustic performance in a backyard on YouTube, complete with cicada chirps — gets a full band presentation on the album, unfortunately. The sparse video version is far superior given its back-to-nature accompaniment.
The album's a solid compilation and serves as a good introduction to a number of bands if you're not already familiar, and the video series is a great way to hear even more.