Somewhere between the front porch and the garage, with a voice as strong as the lyrical content it is known to bellow, is Pierce Edens. With enough credentials to prove his status as both a leading songwriter and as a leading performer in the Southeast, the accolades still pile up from regional, national, and international reviews, critics, and fans. Receiving such praise as "a frenetic mix of rock-inspired carnival barker, part troubadour/part guitar-slinging vagrant" and "It would be easy to view Edens and company as a band to scuff your boots to, but if you listen a bit more closely, it quickly becomes evident that Edens is also a truly gifted songwriter." seemed a decent enough response. Then, after the release of their CD, constant rotation on several regional radio stations, packed road-houses and dives, coffee shops and private parties, Edens and crew were voted one of the best Alt-Country bands of the area by Mountain Xpress readers (four years running)...and one of the top 20 new releases by WNCW a few weeks later.
Hailing from rural western North Carolina - Madison County, to be more precise - Pierce was instantly inundated with the feral story-telling and musical ramblings of the area. The red clay ramblings soaked into his blood and kicked holes out of his throat. Since the early days of learning to play guitar (with a hand me down electric with the head stock leaned up against the window to create a poor man's amplifier), Pierce began weaving his own stories into the sounds of the mountains. Then 1990 happened, and the effects of the Seattle Sound would infiltrate and add additional grit to his songs, mixing to create some illegitimate child born of both worlds.
With an EP (Four Songs) under his belt, he was soon joined by the Dirty Work: Dave Mack on drums; Matt Smith on lap and pedal steel; and Jesse James on upright bass. The boys took Pierce's songs to an all new level. Within that first year, the first full-length CD (Partydress) was recorded (appropriately in Madison County, a few mere miles from Edens childhood home) and released into wild in 2006. Then another full length album (Long Days Above Ground), three years later in 2009. After a short break for Jesse and Pierce to renovate Pierce’s home into a fully functioning recording studio, they are currently recording yet another collection of Pierce’s songs… with a release date yet to be announced.
For more on Pierce (and the boys) check out his website www.pierceedens.com where there are videos, tracks, posits, and more.
Jesse James - Upright Bass and Vocals
Dave Mack - drums /percussion
Pierce Edens - Harmonica, Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
Matt Smith - Lead Guitar., Doboro, pedal/lap steel
"Long Days Above Ground": Self-Released 2009.
"Party Dress": Self-Released 2006.
Voted top 20 regional releases on WNCW.
"Live at the Grey Eagle, NC". -Demo Ep. Released 2005.
four songs. -Demo EP. Self-Released 2004.
A Live Review of the Charleston Bluegrass Festival
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"Last Saturday afternoon at the Sewee Outpost, it took a band with more roots in rock than bluegrass..."Last Saturday afternoon at the Sewee Outpost, it took a band with more roots in rock than bluegrass to get folks on their feet, but once the crowd stood up for Asheville's Pierce Edens and the Dirty Work, they never returned to their seats.
Edens and his trio delivered one of the weekend's marquee performances, taking advantage of their prime 6 p.m. time slot as the singer/guitarist snarled his way through an upbeat set with his signature rumbling voice."
First the Big Room, then the Big Time
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Pierce Edens and The Dirty Work ...Pierce Edens is the guy hidden in the back of the room drinkin...Pierce Edens and The Dirty Work
...Pierce Edens is the guy hidden in the back of the room drinking straight black java and sneaking pulls from a flask. Along with his band, The Dirty Work, Edens raises the showcase’s musical stakes a frenetic mixture of roots-inspired rock. Presenting an image that is part carnival barker, part troubadour and part guitar-slinging vagrant, Edens’ music has a greater complexity than you might guess from a casual listen.
“I get comparisons to Tom Waits because my voice is rough,” says Edens. “But I wish people would tell me I sound like [legendary country singer] Billie Joe Shaver.”
Relating stories of hard living—and even harder learning—with uncommon ease and a gravel-chewing voice, it’s easy to compare Edens to the likes of Waits. But there’s a cool, uptown vibe to Edens’ songs as well. In fact, there’s even a little sentimentality to his work. But don’t get the idea that Edens and company are just a bunch of hard-luck softies—there’s some genuine grit in their songs and a fire in their performances.
“Expect us to keep our pants on for most of the show, at least,” he says laughing.
Gravel voiced phoenix rises from Asheville
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Whilst Edens strangles words in a kind of a Tom Waits way, Matt Smith lays down a dirty fingernails ...Whilst Edens strangles words in a kind of a Tom Waits way, Matt Smith lays down a dirty fingernails wall of guitar rock music, a kind of rockabilly, greasy, dirty, gritty. That or a slowed down style, slow so that the words crawl out of Edens’ mouth like animals stiff from hibernation taking first steps in spring - here Smith uses the pedal steel to cloak the whole thing in something approaching beauty: they sound like a roadhouse band playing in a coffee house.
If Eden’s growled any lower he’s be fronting a death metal band, so it comes as a surprise and a pleasure when pretty tunes like ‘Creeping Vines’ are afforded respect: he sounds as if he’d hawked up before laying down the smoother vocal, and indeed the band are most effective on the slower numbers. Michael Oliver’s upright bass adds atmosphere to the crepuscular ‘Heaven’ where Edens sounds like Sean Ryder confessing his sins. They explore some interesting territory on the extended ‘Momma’ which approaches the zeal and intensity of 16 Horsepower with throat shredding vocals contrasted with eloquent pedal steel. Another extended song ‘Spirits’ has a more elegiac feel, one of those coming home anthems that stirs the blood. This is an intense and enjoyable experience.
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Wildy’s World Pierce Edens and The Dirty Work - Partydress 2006, Pierce Edens Pierce Edens is...Wildy’s World
Pierce Edens and The Dirty Work - Partydress
2006, Pierce Edens
Pierce Edens is either into creating low expectations or he’s absolutely hilarious (or maybe a little of both). Aside from that, along his band The Dirty Work, Piece Edens is one fantastic performer. On the debut album from Piece Edens and The Dirty Work, Partydress, we get a mix of folk, blues and rock that is intriguing.
Pierce Edens is a capable songwriter who is able to bring you most any style of music, but is truly at his best with down and dirty acoustic blues. Partydress opens with Baby Doll, a delicious blues rock tune. Holiday is a great singer-songwriter tune with a real melancholy bent. Things Are Looking Up is another tasty blues dish. One of the things that makes this music work is the energy that Pierce Edens & The Dirty Work invest in their music. Even on the weaker songs on this album Pierce Edens carries the songs on sheer force of personality and will.
Other highlights include the country Creeping Vines, Jailhouse, Momma and the frenetic rocker Let It Rain. Pierce Edens and The Dirty Work sure know how to liven up a concert hall. Their electric energy levels are infectious and you'll find yourself getting up to dance. Partydress is an outstanding disc with a number of songs that are great fits for radio or for licensing. Make some room for Piece Edens and The Dirty Work in your CD collection.
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Pierce Edens and the Dirty Work sound like a fusion between Tom Waits and Louis Armstrong. The beg...
Pierce Edens and the Dirty Work sound like a fusion between Tom Waits and Louis Armstrong. The beginning of Party Dress evokes a rockabilly sound coupled with provocative lyrics, and then shifts to a more blues-inspired tone, making use of pedal steel, upright bass and slower melodies. Edens has the voice of a seasoned musician - a man with tales to tell and someone whose stories you would want to hear. In a world where it is hard to distinguish certain vocalists from one another, Edens' voice certainly cannot be said to blend in with the others. It is almost as if he is challenging you not to listen, but his vocal quality is capable of holding your attention while you listen to his woes, pleas and the like. At times it sounds as though his voice might just give way, like he is squeezing every last bit of strength out of it. In "Jailhouse," Edens sings of inviting the devil to coffee, saying that the devil has "always been a storm cloud on my shoulder" and that his guitar "might be the only thing that saves me." In this same song, he repeatedly mentions that he "ain't never got in trouble on his own." Tracks like "Momma" show the group's versatility, and by varying the speed between the songs, they assure that listeners don't grow tired of the somewhat scratchy, raw sound. Fans of Tom Waits or southern rock should definitely check out Party Dress. There is a gem in Asheville, North Carolina, and it's ready to be discovered. (Self-released)
Dressing for the Party
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-by Jake Frankel Despite what his singing voice suggests, Pierce Edens does not chew on gravel, ...-by Jake Frankel
Despite what his singing voice suggests, Pierce Edens does not chew on
gravel, swallow sandpaper or have a small bass resonator lodged
somewhere deep inside his chest. For years, the local songwriter says
he tried to "sweeten up" his voice. Thankfully it resisted, because on
his debut full length album, Party Dress, his screams sound like the
wise product of a thousand years' worth of wars and loves gone wrong,
as if he just woke up from a life of hard drinking and is now ready to
tell his tale.
He told me some of that tale over beers and pizza on a recent night in
the West Asheville home he shares with his wife, Jane Edens, who sings
in The Barrel House Mamas. Over the years, Edens and his various
backing bands have teamed up with the Mamas for countless shows and
collaborations. The Mamas cover Edens' "Spirits" on their recently
released debut, gathering, and lend back up vocals to Party Dress.
Together, they have cultivated something of a roots and folk rock
revival in West Asheville, which has been enthusiastically supported
by the Westville Pub.
The place Edens refers to as simply "the Pub" or his "home" has a rich
history of not only showcasing, but employing some of Asheville's most
promising young musicians. Members of Menage got their start
bartending and playing there, and on any given night patrons might now
be served by any three of the four members of Agrolola. Edens used to
work behind the bar and now regularly hosts the venue's Monday open
mike nights. He releases Party Dress at the Pub on Saturday, December
Many of the road-tested tunes on the disk will be familiar to long
time Edens fans, but they've never been captured like this before.
With the help of producer Adam Johnson and his new band, the Dirty
Work, Edens transforms the solo acoustic blues of his 2004 EP, four
songs, into works of angsty rock 'n' roll.
Matt Smith's wailing lap and pedal steel lines define the new
instrumentation, breathing fire and soul into barn burners like "baby
doll" and "pretty," and weeping gently along with Edens' deep moans on
more reflective songs like "creeping vines." Many of the tracks would
be right at home on Americana and AAA radio. Edens credits his
bandmates for helping take his songs to "a whole new level."
"They have been right there with me on the clay every time, taking the
song further than I thought it was going to go or taking it in a
different direction than I thought it was going to go and making it
better," he says. "In general, every time I write a song I get excited
thinking, 'oh, I wonder what they're going to do with this.'"
The quartet came together at the urging of drummer David Mack, who in
addition to playing drums with Edens and the Barrel House Mamas, plays
bass with GFE. He introduced Edens to bassist Micheal Olivier and
Smith, who also plays in The Trainwrecks. Mack says that when he
introduced Edens to Smith, his old friend from their days growing up
in Charlottesville, VA, it was "like they got married. They just set
up in the living room and played for two weeks. Me and Michael didn't
even come to practice."
All of them except Smith were originally drawn to Asheville to attend
Warren Wilson College. For Edens, who graduated with a degree in
Philosophy in 2003, it wasn't such a long trip. He was born and raised
in Brush Creek, Madison County, were he grew up learning songs from
old-time legend Sheila Adams and sitting in on jams at Marshall's
Depot with well known bluegrass players like Josh Goforth. He sees the
songs he writes as a fusion of those experiences growing up in the
country with a later love for grunge.
"All growing up, most of the music I heard was live, in school, or at
church, or at community gatherings," says Edens. "And the kind of
music that it was was old time- ballads, hymns, old songs. I never
really thought about that, it was just there. I kept that kind of
music around, put it side by side with Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Alice in
Chains. And that, I think is kind of where my music resides. All that
stuff shines through, and I think it's my job to attempt to not filter
any of it. I think that's what honest music is -- not thinking about
that, and just letting it be what it is."
He brought the band back home with him to make Party Dress, literally
staying at his folk's place and recording the album over the course of
a single whiskey fueled weekend last summer at Silvermine Studios just
down the road in Marshall.
"It was so much fun, great, probably one of the best times I've ever
had," reflects Edens. "We didn't map out our songs so much. We just
went in there and played, kicked it up. We caught what we do. That's
all we were ever after."
Earful (Notes on local music)
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Show Review Pierce Edens at Harvest Records... Genre: Singer/Songwriter; bottleneck blues... Be...Show Review
Pierce Edens at Harvest Records...
Genre: Singer/Songwriter; bottleneck blues...
Be glad you stayed home if: You need more musical meat than a man and a guitar.
Defining Moment: "Hallelujah" --an origional blues drencher so good I swore it was an old classic.
I fear the singer/songwriter stereotype. When I hear the label, I think of a whiny eulogy for a lost cat or spilled coffee on a fresh cardigan. Luckily, Pierce Edens epitomizes neither. With a growling voice, aggresive harmonica, and a percusive guitar sound, Edens (backed by a drummer for the first set) has the presence to hold one's attention for more than the obligatory song. The music is still raw, the mistakes visible, but he is a performer with a lot of well-written originals, a monster picking hand, and a bucketful of intention...
Junk Journal (valuable scraps from the local music scene)
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...First, a newcomer to the Asheville scene, Pierce Edens, sent along his Four Songs. EP, containing......First, a newcomer to the Asheville scene, Pierce Edens, sent along his Four Songs. EP, containing, well, four songs. Three of the four are live tracks from Warren Wilson's Sage Cafe and Westville Pub, while the last, and perhaps best, studio track, "jailhouse (devil don't work alone)., along with the live "pretty.," clearly indicate Edens' pleseant preoccupation with the naughtier side of life. With a stripped but well-tuned solo guitar attack, Edens holsters a noteworthy life-torn voice- slightly reminiscent of a more stoned and somber Tom Waits (if that makes any sense whatsoever)...
Talking new roots music: A sit down with Pierce Edens
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by: Jake Frankel Local old-time blues singer/songwriter Pierce Edens’ perfectly gruff and gravel...by: Jake Frankel
Local old-time blues singer/songwriter Pierce Edens’ perfectly gruff and gravely voice rises up from his gut, sounding like the sad, wise product of a thousand years worth of wars and loves gone wrong, as if he just woke up from a life of hard drinking and is now ready to tell his tale.
A regular in Asheville’s folk scene for several years now, I wnet by Pierce’s West Asheville home on a recent muggy night and sat down on the front porch with him to hear more of that tale, and while it wasn’t quite as dramatic as his voice suggests, (he is only twenty-something years old after all) it was plenty interesting.
He was born and raised in Brush Creek, Madison County, where he grew up learning songs from old-time legend Shelia Adams and sitting in on jams with the like of now-turned bluegrass star Josh Goforth.
But, not surprisingly, he shunned his country music roots as he got a little older, instead choosing to embrace the teenage angst-expressing power of distortion and grunge rock. A few years later, with a degree in Philosophy from Warren Wilson and some traveling under his belt, he says he was figuratively and musically “ready to go back to Madison County.”
Talking to Pierce while sipping on one of his flavorful, stout homebrews, I was particularly interested in that process of rebelling against, and then turning back toward, roots music.
AD: How did you get started playing music?
PE: It was always a push from my dad: “learn to play a musical instrument. I don’t care if you do anything with it.” So he signed me up for guitar lessons when I was eight or nine years old and get me this little bitty left handed guitar. I went mostly to listen to my guitar teacher play.
After a while he would let me start playing along with his group, an old-time band, but I never got really far with it until way later when I picked up the bass guitar instead and played grunge rock n’ roll in a band in middle school and high school.
AD: Is that when you started writing and singing?
PE: I started writing songs with the grunge band because I was the designated singer and no one else wanted to do it.
AD: It wasn’t something you really felt drawn to do? Like, “I want to be a singer and I’m going to sing,” or was it more like, “Well, I guess we’re in a band and we need a singer so I’m going to have to do it”?
PE; It was alright because with grunge rock you didn’t really have to hit any notes or anything, you just had to yell a lot. They figured I would be the best at that for some reason. I was the one writing the words because I was the one saying them. It was mostly about guitar solos anyway.
But that’s where I got my start on it, in middle school, writing angsty teenage poetry and putting on some distorted bass lines and it just kind of caught from there. And I got really into writing and less so into grunge rock n’roll. I stopped writing songs and started writing what I considered then to be poetry, as something to do more than anything else. You run out of things to do pretty quick, wherever you’re from.
AD: What you’re doing now has more of this simplified, blues-y feel, which is obviously different than pop music you hear on the radio. What draws you to that simple, rootsy sound?
PE: Origionaly, when I was really getting into writing songs and putting them to music, tweaking with the forms, I kind of headed towards folk music. I was still absorbing everything around me and I was still going to the Depot and everything, even during the grunge thing. But after we stopped playing music in the band, yelling and screaming and stomping around, the bass just didn’t hold up anymore, and I started playing the only guitar I had, this old cheap Stratocaster and I didn’t have an amp. I didn’t have anyway of hearing the damn thing.
I would go up against the windowpane and strum so I would hear it reverberating off the window. I did that for a while until I was like, “Oh, I’ll just play acoustic.” So I bought an acoustic guitar and got really into the tapping and and knocking on the actual wood, like it was a percussive thing. So I just kind of fell into this rootsy sound just by tapping on the thing and hitting the one note every now and then, focusing on the one note and making it the right one to hit at that point.
So, that spun me in the other direction, to really strip it down, take everything out of it and still have it be a song. All those old song forms, all you have to do was bang on something and belt it out. And that’s really what I was trying for, trying to get that on the guitar. That lends itself to old-time music, that lends itself to blues music, to old folk music. What people were doing when they got off work.
AD: How much of the music you are drawn to, consciously or not, stems from growing up in Madison County and going to those old time jam sessions at the Depot? I’m interested in how growing up out there in the deep country affected your sound.
PE: It was funny really, when I was rebelling, when I was interested in rebelling against things, I was rebelling against old-time music. So then I went to Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and I still have a soft place in my heart for that stuff because that’s some good stuff. But it’s kind of reverse to what you were saying earlier- how I think a lot of people are returning to old-time music, returning to Americana roots music and rebelling against pop music and that modern day and all that. It was kind of a reverse process for me. I was rebelling against the norms of the time because I didn’t get out much.
AD: Roots music was your norm.
PE: My fifth grade teacher was Sheila Adams’ cousin. So Shelia Adams was there teaching old-time ballads and learning those songs was part of my fifth grade study.
AD: You were probably like, “Screw this.”
PE: Actually, in fifth grade I probably wasn’t rebellious enough. I was still thinking it was pretty cool. But after sixth grade, seventh grade, I was like, “Screw this, I’m going to listen to something awful like Green Day or Offspring and give them the finger.” And then afterwards, realizing what they were doing, I’ve come to respect that. Going to college widened my horizions quite a bit. I was where different people were coming from, saw a little bit of the world aand saw that I really wanted to go back to Madison County.
AD: But you’re not living in Madison County now, Maybe music is a way to stay connected with that.
PE; I don’t want to just settle for a job I can do from Madison County.
AD: Which is basically nothing.
PE: What I really want to do is play music, what I really want to do is write. And so if I could find a way to do that, that would be ideal. And I’m trying to build that in town. Because Asheville is such a music town. And with the way technology is heading, you don’t need to run off to New York anymore, you don’t need to run off to L.A. There’s enough communications now that you don’t need ot be in front fo somebody to be in contact with them.
AD: It’s interesting to me that you’re living in this age of modern communication and technology like you’re saying, but that you’re choosing to play this music which is basically banging on your front porch and hammering on an acoustic guitar. There is an interesting paradox there – that complex technology can portentially open up this possibility to make a living making this simple music.
PE: I think that is the kind of cup that our generation was handed. How do we consolidate what’s been happening, this whole modern upheaval, social ideology, this whole new way of seeing things? How do we marry that with a sense of tradition in the sense of who we as a people are?
Because I feel like even as far back as WWI, in the context of history, this has been something people have been struggling with. The fact that we don’t really know what we’re about, who we are, where we come from, and how that affects our daily life – what does that mean?
You see it in conflicts across the globe. I think it’s no conincedence that the Christian right has grown so strong. Because they at least provide a sense of tradition, like, “There are things older than me to grab onto.” And so I guess, me in my own way, I’m doing that through the musical traditions I grew up surrounded with.
AD: Looking for meaning.
PE: Yeah, I don’t think it was a coincidence that I really latched onto writing at the onset fo puberty, that whole developing of “who I am, what I am about.” It only makes sense that the songs and how I try to write them becomes me trying to develop an identity.
AD: I want to talk about your voice. Do you purposely smoke cigarettes and chew on glass and swallow sandpaper and shit to give yourself this deep bluesy ass voice that you have? Or do you have any training? Or does it just come naturally?
PE: Well, it’s funny because I didn’t actually sing during college. Iwas writing these songs and everything but I didn’t have any way of getting them out because I didn’t like the way my voice sounded. I didn’t want to sound like I did. At the time I was discovering all this new music, these new bands, Ben Harper, folk music, smooth voices, nothing that sounds like I do. I was trying ot sweeten it up, trying to get the gravel out of it and the results were just awful. So, I didn’t sing the songs I was writing or I did, and was always unhappy with it.
I didn’t really embrace it until after I was gone from there and got into this whole new head spin of, “Now I have to figure out how to pay for everything.” And I really embraced the struggle of it. I feel like that’s an important part of coming into adulthood. Living is not something you get to be done with. It’s not like you do your homework and now you’re done. You have to wake up in the morning and go to work. It’s like, “if you want this, then you’re going to have to do this and this,” and that defines the particular struggle you’re going to have.
In my head, it was a new self discovery. And I completely ditched a lot of the songs I had been working on and started a whole new set of songs. And those are the songs that I have now, a new take on playing the guitar too, just letting it go.
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...Our next act is anything but somber. Gritty, visceral and about as subtle as a flamethrower duel ......Our next act is anything but somber. Gritty, visceral and about as subtle as a flamethrower duel at a gas station, Pierce Edens and the Dirty Work is handily one of the defining bands in the current Asheville music scene. It would be easy to view Edens and company as a band to scuff your boots to, but if you listen a bit more closely, it quickly becomes evident that Edens is also a truly gifted songwriter. Songs like “Holiday” and “Creeping Vines” actually border on the kind of rough-hewn brilliance that mainstream country could benefit from. That said, our suggested starting track is the dust-kicking, proudly crowing anthem “Let It Rain,” which you can listen to on the group’s MySpace page...
Best Of WNC
Voted Best of WNC 2007-2011
All material is written by Pierce Edens, with an occasional traditional or more modern cover, ranging from Will the Circle Be Unbroken to Morphine's Buena Buena.
Shows range from not-so-quiet solo performances with any number of sets to full-blown raucous events with the back-up band, the Dirty Work, going on for hours on end. Typically, shows consist of all of the original work, seldom one of a number of covers gets thrown in to the mix.
List of Songs:
Youre so pretty
Things are looking up
Let it Rain
Black Shiny Shoes
Ghost on the Radio
Queen of hearts
Things I stole
Trouble laid me low
Rock and Roll song
Mighty Mighty River
There's the Devil
More songs are always in the works and are unveiled at shows periodically.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.