People often associate jam bands with four-hour set lists and overly long guitar solos, but a local band proves on its sophomore album that jams become much more interesting when you infuse elements of jazz, rock, reggae, funk — and well — just about everything you can imagine.
Boone-based band Unaka Prong released its new album “Adult Contemporary” on April 20 — the much anticipated followup to the group’s successful debut album “Margot.”
This time around, the sextet that is Unaka Prong began writing and performing songs that explored the fringes of individual member influences, expanding on the band’s already several genres, going as far as to include country and folk sounds, and even some elements of hip-hop.
Formed in the winter of 2013 at Appalachian State University, Unaka Prong has performed regularly around the region for several years. Probably best described as progressive jazz fusion, the band consists of John Hargett, drums and vocals; Chris Pope, keyboards; Daniel Stevenson, guitar and vocals; Mike Welsh, guitar; Nic Pressley, trumpet and vocals; and Jonathon Sale, bass and vocals.
“Adult Contemporary” gives listeners their money’s worth, complete with 15 tracks, including several lengthy instrumentals. While that seems to go beyond the attention span of many modern day listeners, it’s actually the reason the album thrives.
Every track showcases various influences, keeping the listener intrigued and constantly wondering what to expect next. And, what’s most impressive, is that it doesn’t feel sporadic, but rather like every track belongs, making for a satisfying album listening experience.
The opening track, “Gadnuk (Breaker of Worlds),” starts things out with an incredibly catchy jazz hook that sucks the listener right in. This is an instrumental track, and a smooth one to say the least. The back half of the song has a strong Santana feel to it, from the tight guitar leads to the percussion layered underneath.
Following is the tune “Fruit Fly,” likely the most memorable track on the album. Starting off with what sounds like an old-time blues song turns into almost a Latin-based jazz tune. The vocals and instrumentation are very reminiscent of Southern Culture on the Skids, maybe even with a hint of Primus.
A couple of other standout tracks are “Late July” and “Lurks,” mostly due to the fact that they combine multiple genres to make sounds that are truly one-of-a-kind.
“Late July” is the most soulful song on the album. The instrumentation and sound of this one is close to the likes of Allen Stone and St. Paul and the Broken Bones. “Lurks” came as the biggest surprise on the album, as it started out with a nice, mellow female/male vocal harmony, which unexpectedly leads into a hip-hop jam, complete with a rap verse. Quite impressive.
If you thought it wasn’t possible to fit anymore genres into a single album, you thought wrong. The track “Narcese” is a straight up rock and roll song. To put it into perspective, it has a very upbeat J. Geils Band sound to it. Two tracks toward the end, “Fairweather Friend” and “Highway Drivin’,” bring in elements of folk and country, evocative of the Avett Brothers or Shakey Graves.
“Adult Contemporary” is an adventure to listen too, and there is never a dull moment. The musicianship is incredibly tight, showcasing the true, raw talent each band member possesses. When all of the genres and individual influences are working together, it’s something special.
Unaka Prong is playing a handful of shows following the release of the album, including two stops in Boone. Check them out at Cafe Portofino’s on April 27, and at The Annex at TApp Room on April 28.
“Adult Contemporary” is available on iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music, Bandcamp and several other media platforms. For more information, visit http://www.unakaprong.com.