Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Roosevelt Dime Have Oldschool Fun with Vintage Americana

This one’s a lot of fun. Anchored by Andrew Green’s spiky banjo and Hardin Butcher’s soaring, smartly tuneful trumpet and cornet, Roosevelt Dime’s lineup is pretty unique today, although eighty years ago banjo-and-horns bands were pretty common. Their aptly titled new album Steamboat Soul sets set vintage 1960s-style soul or country songs to wry, clever arrangements that go back another forty years or so, sometimes with hokum blues or dixieland tinges. All this falls somewhere in between Preacher Boy, the 2 Man Gentlemen Band and the Wiyos. Weaving in and out of period vernacular and accent – “a pack of tobacco and a late night pay phone call,” and so on – they set a vibe that varies from laid-back to boisterous. All the songs here have the immediacy and warm interplay of a live album, Seth Paris’ clarinet and saxophones interweaving with the trumpet, pulsing along on the laid-back beat from Eben Pariser’s bass and Tony Montalbano’s drums.

The opening track, with its rapidfire lyrics, has an almost hip-hop feel, with a sweet clarinet solo: as long as the singer’s got his booze and Johnny Cash on the turntable, he’s content. The second cut, Where Did You Go kicks off with a semi-truck horn and ends with a siren: in between, it’s a swaying hokum blues that reaches for a sly Mississippi Sheiks vibe.The band motor through the fast banjo shuffle What a Shame as the kick drum boots it along, then chill out with the easy calypso vibe of Sway. Jubilee is a rousing second-line tribute to “the funkiest joint in town” and its hard-drinking house band. And Digging Song is absolutely brilliant, a spot-on swipe at trendoids with an oldtimey tune but contemporary references, as is the next track, Slow Your Roll, snidely referencing pretty much every Brooklyn neighborhood to suffer the blight of gentrification.

But it’s the soul songs here that really set them apart from the rest of the oldtimey crew. Wishing Well takes a Willie Mitchell-style Memphis shuffle back in time, a clever sendup of a golddigging girl (or one who wants to be a golddigger, anyway). Helpless has more of a ballad feel; the wistful Long Long Time reaches for the rafters with a lush, crescendoing string arrangement. The album winds up with Spikedriver, a biting update on an oldtimey railroad song. Fans of Americana music from across the decades have a lot to sink their teeth into here.

November 11, 2010 Posted by | blues music, country music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: The Wiyos – Broken Land Bell

Their best album. It’s amazing how much energy the Wiyos get out of a couple of acoustic guitars, harmonica and upright bass – and to their further credit, the quality of the songs and the playing here transcends the presence of a human beatbox. Cross-pollination is usually a good thing, but this time it is not, and happily the hip-hop effects are mostly buried in the mix on all but a couple of the songs. Which represent the Wiyos’ inimitable blend of rousing 1920s-style hokum blues, ragtime, guitar swing and oldtimey hillbilly songs – everything here sound live, which is especially fortuitous since their concerts are reliably high-intensity affairs. This one kicks off with a rustic traveling song, followed by another equally jaunty number, then a starkly minor-key banjo tune. There are also a couple of hobo songs here, one a cautionary tale to stay one step ahead of the law, the other a soaring tribute to the excitement of riding the rails. Singer/guitarist Parrish Ellis’ Angeline has a Hank Williams-gone-cajun feel; guitarist Teddy Weber’s Green Bottle #6 is jazzy and swinging with a sweet lapsteel solo. By contrast, Drum, by frontman/harmonica player Michael Farkas is a dark and aptly aphoristic antiwar number with train-whistle steel guitar. The album wraps up with a deliriously fun country drinking song, a ballad that starts out hypnotic with an early Grateful Dead feel before picking up steam, and the vividly lyrical, wary Valentina, a thoughtful evocation of a girl stuck in a city that once made a great place to hide but has now swallowed her whole. “The kings can’t grow up to be kings,” Farkas muses – it’s an anthem of sorts for the new depression. Steampunks everywhere will be salivating for this. The Wiyos got their start here and make frequent return trips – these guys live on the road, watch this space for future NYC dates.

October 28, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment