Several Roanoke area musicians have teamed up to form Sinking Creek, recently releasing their first CD, “Fast Asleep.” Songwriter-acoustic guitarist Lance Smith, bassist Jake Dempsey and keyboardist James Pace – who often tours with nationally recognized artists – form the heart of Sinking Creek. Other players are added for live gigs, like the listening party for the release of “Fast Asleep” last month at Kirk Avenue Music Hall.
It’s not surprising that later-era Pink Floyd comes to mind on many of the tunes, said Smith, since Pace plays the Hammond B3 organ something that is prevalent on many of that group’s songs.
Dempsey said he’s been playing in the area, primarily as a bass player “in various bands,” for the past 15 years. That’s included time with the popular Sol Creech band. Three years ago he opened his own recording studio, the Red Room, which recently closed.
That’s also where Fast Asleep was recorded; something Dempsey calls “a collaborative effort,” with Smith and Pace, whose brother Cyrus is another well-known area musician and the director of arts programming for Roanoke City Schools. Pace, who has played with Smith and Dempsey for more than 10 years, has toured with Los Lonely Boys and the late jazz vocalist Koko Taylor.
Smith said he brought the “skeleton,” for each song to the table as songwriter. “Then all the fun stuff happened.”
His folk songs evolved from there, often into “spacey” tunes with “Floydish” vocals that “made it weird.” Smith has recorded music in the past and likes the whole process. He and Dempsey started recording together, first using karaoke machines, in the early 90’s.
Dempsey took the lead on producing the Sinking Creek CD.
“It was really an experimental process, Dempsey said.”
It took more than two years to put Fast Asleep together. “It was definitely a Democracy …we took a vote on stuff,” added Smith. Cathedral of the Fallen Angels (“it sounds so full”) and Down by the Water are two of his favorites from the CD.
The overall result is skilled, very listenable pop music. Smith said he is a huge fan of The Final Cut, Roger Water’s last Pink Floyd album before he split from the group.
“I just love the vulnerability in his voice,” said Smith, who works a day job to support his music habit. “I was just a huge fan.” REM and the Violent Femmes were other influences growing up.
Smith is modest about his impressive songwriting ability on Fast Asleep. “I just start banging away on the guitar, then add a few mumbles here and there. Then just kind of faked the rest.”
Visit sinkingcreekmusic.com for more information.