Land Is: Land Is 


[Self-released; Oct. 25]

According to Corbie Hill, “Survivor Song” is the only happy song that he’s written during twenty-plus years of making music.

This gives the song, which opens the new EP by Hill’s band, Land Is, an admirable distinction, especially given that it was written immediately after Hill was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia—one that, until recently, was considered terminal.

Hill survived, but cancer took a staggering toll on his family (around the same time, his wife, Rachel, was also diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer), and this toll is felt keenly throughout the EP.

Until recently, Land Is was a solo project, but for these three tracks, Hill, on vocals and guitar, is joined by a new band: Thomas Baucom (keys), Jack Gudhart (bass), and Patrick Edwards (percussion); they all sing harmonies. “The First Bird (for Kari & Channing)” features probing acoustic guitar that feels reminiscent of Ryley Walker’s jazzy spin on folk-rock, although it is probably the least fully realized song of the three songs.

“Evergreen,” an older song, rounds the trio out; it was written after Wes Lowder—the owner of Carrboro heavy metal venue The Reservoir—died in a car accident in 2010. The only solo song of the set, it has a quietly devastating effect. After the first two minutes, Hill’s voice drops off, letting piano and percussion build for the shimmering six-minute remainder.

Land Is was recorded in a shed in the backyard of Hill’s home in Pittsboro; the doors were left open, and the acoustics are textured with environmental sounds that wafted in during the recording. Cars pass, insects chirp, and airplanes fly overhead, adding a reassuring warmth. Life is difficult and fragile, these sounds seem to say, but life—mercifully? mercilessly?—goes on.

And while it’s true that happy does not work as a description for most of Hill’s music, it’s also not hopeless, either. At the end of “Survivor Song,” a serendipitous guest star makes a faint, chirping appearance: a Carolina Wren.

Contact associate arts and entertainment editor Sarah Edwards at

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