Paging Raymond 

Don't let the packaging fool you: Paging Raymond's new CD may not have a professional sheen on the outside, but it does on the inside.

After winning a day at Echo Park Studios in a Bloomington songwriting contest, the roots-rock quintet started recording in December. By the time Bridges Left to Burn was completed in February, however, they were footing the bill.

"We completely and fully ran out of money," guitarist/vocalist Tim Wilsbach said. While waiting for the bank account to build back up, the band has postponed professional printing, mastering and mass-production of its second album, opting for limited batches of 100 at a time.

But that doesn't negate the fact that Bridges Left to Burn boasts unusually consistent quality for a local release, with clean production that lets the well-crafted songs stand on their own.

The heart of the band's sound is the brotherly harmonies of Wilsbach and fellow guitarist-vocalist Aaron Adelsperger, who have been singing together in some way or another for more than a decade.

In fact, four of the five band members were pals at Griffith High School near Gary, singing in the school choir together and playing in various combinations in various garage bands.

"We were truly all joined at the hip," Wilsbach said, who just turned 30. "When we get onstage, I think you feel that." The sound behind those warm vocals has evolved, however, since Wilsbach and Adelsperger formed an acoustic duo in 1998. First, the lineup grew with the addition of drummer Stephen Fields and bassist Chris Foster. Then Jim Borders, one of those high school chums, brought the instrument that adds a signature flavor to many tunes.

"He said, 'Hey, I'm going to learn the mandolin so I can be in your band,'" Wilsbach recalled. Mandolin and 12-string guitar still play key roles on the new disc, but less so than on the band's acoustically oriented debut album. Bridges is very much a rock project, with solid beats and no shortage of electric lead guitar. Stasia Demos, on loan from Middletown, adds organ on most cuts and touches of piano and accordion.

Though clearly influenced by '90s alt-country - most notably the Jayhawks - Paging Raymond draws from a wide range of inspirations.

"When it comes down to it, we're really just pop fans," Wilsbach said. "I'm a sucker for a good melody and a big hook." The resulting sound would go down well on adult-alternative radio alongside Counting Crows, the BoDeans, the Gin Blossoms, the Wallflowers and other bands that emphasize palatable songwriting over aggression and irony.

And the temporary lack of financing does not reflect a lack of ambition. Paging Raymond expects to roam the Midwest this summer and see what develops. "We're looking to get out of town a lot more and promote this," Wilsbach said, who makes his living as a freelance video producer. "We're hoping to find a small label that might want to sink some dollars into it and put us on the road."

Among other upcoming appearances, Paging Raymond will play Friday at Birdy's and June 5 at the Indianapolis Indians game.

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