Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

The Devil Makes Three Play Cool Funny Oldtime Americana at Maxwell’s Tonight

Santa Cruz-based acoustic Americana hellraisers The Devil Makes Three play Maxwell’s tonight at nine. If you miss the Asylum Street Spankers, The Devil Makes Three are just as entertaining – and like the Spankers, they also happen to be an excellent band. The most recent album from guitarist Pete Bernhard, upright bassist Lucia Turino and guitarist/tenor banjo player Cooper McBean came out a couple of years ago. It’s called Do Wrong, Right, and it’s something that should have been on our radar at the time but wasn’t. It’s not just bluegrass with funny, surreal lyrics – the band also plays country swing, blues and Nashville gothic and does that stuff period-perfect as well.

The album is sort of a cross between the Spankers and Mojo Nixon’s duo stuff with Jello Biafra. The opening track, All Hail is a genuine classic: as they see it, the world is populated with clueless shoppers all wasted on crack and antidepressants: “It ain’t a drug, goddamn it, I give it to my only son,” says the guy on the way to the office thorazine party. The amusing intro of Poison Trees gives no indication of the ominous, apocalyptic shuffle that follows. The title track is a bouncy, violin-fueled bluegrass tune; they follow that with Gracefully Facedown, a woozy swing shuffle like early Dan Hicks. It’s a tribute to anyone who subscribes to the idea that “drinking bottom shelf bourbon seems to work all right til closing time.” For Good Again cynically mythologizes the band’s roots living in squalor, paying the rent in illegal drugs and writing songs that someday they’d get paid to play. “Everybody who’s anybody at one time lived in somebody’s hallway,” they assert, and they’re probably right.

Their Working Man’s Blues isn’t the Merle Haggard standard – it’s a haunting tobacco sharecropper’s lament with blues harp that sounds like it was recorded on another planet, a feeling echoed on a biting version of Statesboro Blues. The Johnson Family is an eerie, carnivalesque gypsy waltz; Helping Yourself puts a devious Curtis Eller-style spin on oldtime country gospel, spiced with an unexpectedly searing slide guitar solo. A spot-on early 50s style honkytonk tune that does double duty as raised middle finger to the boss, Cheap Reward unexpectedly quotes Elvis Costello; there’s also the careening slide guitar shuffle Aces and Twos and the unexpectedly epic Car Wreck. Good album – where the hell were we when this came out? You can get it at the band’s site or pick one up at the show.

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May 18, 2011 Posted by | blues music, country music, folk music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Podunk, BFE – Get Your Hole Ready

Editor’s note – thanks to Jayne for the heads-up about this one

From Portland, Oregon comes this consistently funny, sometimes hilarious album of bluegrass/grasscore punk songs. The cd cover shot is a pretty skyscape through what looks like a doorframe, like in some Caribbean travel brochure – until you realize that it’s the view upward from the bottom of a grave. If you’re wondering what the BFE in Podunk, BFE means, that’s Bum Fuck Egypt which says a lot about how this sounds. The instrumentation here is bristly and tasty with banjo, mandolin, guitar, and upright bass along with drums on some of the cuts. Some of the songs are so fast that it sounds like the band is scrambling to catch up, which only adds to the mayhem (although the playing is really good, especially for a crew who obviously don’t take themselves all that seriously). The lyrics mostly concern alcohol and sex, not necessarily in that order. A father-son duo pass the time at the local 24-hour bar; a sympathetic friend tries to lure a jumper down from the ledge with a beer (“I know you’ve got tears to cry, but he’s not your kind of guy”), and in the best of the cheating songs, the guy who first appears to be a sensitive listener type proves to be a lying, cheating SOB just like all the rest. Another ends up going home from the bar with the wrong person (whose name turns out to be Earl). Then there’s the woozy dude with holes in his memory a mile wide, except for his jailhouse tattoo. The one song with an obscenity in the title turns out to be a really nice instrumental. And the best song on the album ends with a Dolly Parton style litany of dead icons, except that these guys are all in hell, Lefty Frizzell, Tupac, Townes Van Zant, Keith Richards – “oh yeah, he’s not dead yet.” When the jokes get old, the tunes will keep your toes tapping: the drunker you get, the better this probably sounds.

January 5, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment