There's always been a consistently robust roots music scene in Columbia, but it's rare to have two acts drop their first albums on the same day. But that's what the Jeff Gregory-fronted group The Runout and Ethan Fogus' The Witness Marks are doing this Friday.
Both singer/songwriters are familiar faces and cheerleaders on the scene, which brings a celebratory note to the fact that each is dropping a fully-realized statement with the help of their various bandmates.
The Runout, which will play an album release show this Thursday at the New Brookland Tavern (Cayla Fralick opens; Charleston's Human Resources headlines), specializes in sensitive, acoustic guitar-led folk-rock that usually starts with something close to the hush melodic lyricism of The Milk Carton Kids before winding its way into more rollicking alt-country territory by song's end.
The advance singles from their project "Mama Put the Record On" and "Reach for You," showcase these dynamic swings and the rustic etherealism that has become the group's calling card. The former swings with the purpose of a solo Tom Petty track, replete with an assured harmonica and soulful chorus, while the latter rides a country shuffle and a wave of sepia-tinged nostalgia for maximum dividends.
The Witness Marks, the band Fogus assembled followed a few years working under his own name, brings a similar palette but more emotionally confrontational style to their roots-rock travails. Fogus can often deliver a lyric with the quivering intensity of Conor Oberst, something accentuated by the lolloping storytelling style of his songs and the lush, overflowing instrumentation which provides so much color and verve.
On the single “You’re Lying,” which premieres here, that instrumentation takes the form of surging organ and elegiac piano (dedicated to former bandmate and Can’t Kids frontman Adam Cullum, who past away last year), as Fogus delivers a drawling, Stones-meets-Dylan country-rocker kiss-off.