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Their name is cryptic, suggesting a landscape that would puzzle the mapmakers. In music's intangible geography, however, eastmountainsouth represents the confluence of high-lonesome heartbreak, modernist ingenuity, and raw-veined Americana.

At its core, the group is Kat Maslich and Peter Adams. Both are vocalists, instrumentalists, and writers imprinted with the regional character of the South. Their music, as exemplified by eastmountainsouth (2003, DreamWorks), is an alloy of hill-country melodies, contemporary studio techniques, and literary-minded lyrics that trace the experience of loss.

As one might suspect, both come from families for whom music was part of the furniture. A native of Roanoke, Virginia, Kat Maslich also grew up on Clinch Mountain (home to bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley), where her grandparents lived. The daughter of a music teacher and amateur pianist, Kat landed in Los Angeles (in fits and starts, she admits, leaving and coming back five times) to pursue a singing career.

Peter Adams was raised in Birmingham, Alabama, in a family of harmony junkies: His mother sang multi-part grace at dinner with her five siblings and their spouses, and his maternal grandfather, once a professional clarinet player, was his first musical idol. He earned degrees in music from the University of the South, in Sewanee, Tennessee, and the University of Alabama - all the while harboring doubts about his interest and future in academic music. He made his way to Los Angeles, where he studied film scoring at USC and began writing music for film and television. But, he says, "I was always writing songs as well, kind of singing quietly in my closet, wishing I could be an artist."

The two met in 1999 when Kat auditioned for a TV spot Peter was producing. She didn't get the job, but the pair struck an almost immediate partnership, recognizing in each other mutual songwriting styles, musical influences, and a remarkable vocal blend. They began playing and writing together, and by 2001 the duo was signed by DreamWorks Records.