"Edheads" have more than the usual reasons to welcome Eddie From Ohio's latest release. After all, there are not only the customary number of oddball characters, amusing scenarios and pumped-up rhythms, this time around the quartet has also recruited some big-name string band musicians to flesh out its sound.
Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Bela Fleck and Tony Rice all contribute to "Old Dominion," the album's unabashedly chauvinistic homage to Virginia. The first verse pretty much says it all: "You think you'll find some mountains in Western Colorado/ 50 weeks of snowy peaks is where you're gonna be/ But babe the Rocky Mountains are gradually eroding/ the hills of Coors are nothing more than Blue Ridge wannabes." 'Nuff said.
Michael Clem, the quartet's bassist, composed "Old Dominion" along with six other songs on the album. Perhaps the best of them, "Eddie's Concubine," concerns, among other things, a lowlife's two-timing love life and a woman both drawn and repelled by it. Guitarist Robbie Schaefer penned the remaining tunes, offering a mixture of reflective narratives ("Minnesota 1945"), Celtic-tinged romps ("Irish Dream") and lacerating ballads ("Maylee, I Had a Dream"). The last of these songs finds one of its characters reading "There Must Be 50 Ways to Kill Your Lover." Never a good sign.
As always, singer Julie Murphy Wells manages to make the silly and the sublime sound engaging, while percussionist Eddie Hartness helps craft a series of textured and sometimes rhythmically infectious settings. The results can only enhance the band's reputation as an imaginative "folkternative."
Appearing Friday and Saturday at the Birchmere. To hear a free Sound Bite from Eddie From Ohio, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8105. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)