Choosing a name can be a daunting task for a new band. For Asheville's Jon Reid, it came naturally. Like an American Manu Chao, his music is a cleanly produced hodge-podge of soul and Latin-jazz, sung both in English and Spanish.
"Jar-E — it's kind of the idea of an empty vessel, going back to the wide range of influences that I have and not trying to be defined by any one genre, style, or way of being," says Reid. "And it also just kind of comes from my name."
The producer/singer/Fender Rhodes-player joined Toubab Krewe at the Pour House last year, and is excited to return in support of his new album, Chicas Malas (Exotic Recordings).
Unlike War Songs and the Muse, his multi-genre, heavily-studio-manipulated previous release, Chicas sounds like the product of a live band, with very few overdubs. To create it, the group converted a barn in rural Marshall, N.C., into a temporary studio.
"We had one vision with this record," says Reid. "We wanted to capture this band in our native environment."
Led by Reid's soaring, soulful vocals, tracks like "Leaf Clover" sound straight out of Motown, while the sauntering "Lorca" is taken from a poem by Federico Garcia Lorca. Before settling into a full-time music career, Reid traveled extensively, soaking up inspiration in Mexico, Greece, and Spain.
"Now I'm kind of breathing into the past," he says. "Any money I could save up and spend on a trip abroad, I fuel back into trying to stay on the road as much as possible."
Sharing the stage with Asheville's ambassadors of Western Saharan music Toubab Krewe should help — the tour takes them from Charleston to Key West.
How does an artist that covers a gamut of world styles answer the always impossible question, "What kind of music do you play?"
"It's soul," says Reid. "Soul is the thing that holds it all together."
Jar-E opens for Toubab Krewe at the Pour House (1977 Maybank Hwy., 843-571-4343) at 9 p.m. on Fri. March 20. Admission is $18 ($15 adv.). Visit www.myspace.com/jare for more.