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CD Review: Joshua Panda's What We Have Sewn 

The Deal: Former Charlotte music scene staple Josh Panda releases long-awaited solo effort.

The Good: Call him the kinder, gentler Panda on this album – it's not the rocking Panda or the hip-hop Panda ... it's the roots-y, acoustic Panda. His tender, soulful vocals are often at the forefront of his songs – showing the soft qualities on "If I Had a Balloon," the heartfelt angst on "Diamonds in the Sand" and his range on "Taiger Lily Pt. I." A bit of his rock side comes out on "Pt. II" – the music gets heavier, as do the vocals. You get a bit of humor mixed in with emotion during "Vineyard Love Song" – two grapes falling in love and wondering if it will last once one of them becomes a raisin. There are 11 tracks here, and an added bonus track, "Goodbye New York," referencing former bandmate Heidi Sidelinker. Panda gets some local help on the new disc, as well. "Buttermilk Holler" has appearances by Ian Thomas, The New Familiars' Justin Fedor and Pat Maholland, H.L. Ruth and Eric-Scott Guthrie. Two other songs feature backing vocals by Reeve Coobs and Lea Kuhlman. A few songs on the album were also recorded at Joe Kuhlman's 36th & Hudson studio.

The Bad: If you're only familiar with Panda's work with Humans and Eyes of the Elders and are expecting something like those, you'll be disappointed. However, there's still a chance you'll enjoy this disc because Panda's musical "mark" is all over it. I just wish he still called Charlotte home so we'd get to see him perform a bit more often.

The Verdict: While Panda held a release party for the disc on Nov. 13 last year, the official release date wasn't until a month later – nice to see that his hometown comes first. The album is surprisingly mellow when compared to the energy that Panda puts forth during his live show. Panda will be back in town in March – highly recommended that you check out his performance whenever you can.

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