SUNDAY CLASSIC GTC: THE CORN POTATO STRING BAND – ‘Volume Two’
The Corn Potato String Band are available @ Apple Music.
Ok, where to start, I’m gonna give this review headings so I don’t get carried away and gush all over the page:
1. FUN (and lots of it)
The irreverent, fun approach taken by Aaron Jonah Lewis, Lindsay McCaw, and Ben Belcher is what draws you into this record. Happiness, fun times and a love for the tune springs from the imaginary grooves of the record (I had to listen on CD I’m afraid). I feel incredibly happy this music is in the world! Tunes like ‘Bacon and Eggs’ make you smile instinctively, the tale of a waitress taking the same order all day, Lindsay’s voice having a world-weary but almost smirky (in a good way) quality to it. Couple this with the exuberant, couldn’t care less, wailing fiddle, and you find yourself dancing around the kitchen on a Sunday Morning (I did). Even “Little Black Train” a tale about your impending death and subsequent judgment has a humour about it.
2: Exceptional Playing (to take your breath away)
Yep, it’s got it in spades, twin fiddles, frenzied claw-hammer Banjo, all rolling around and combining into one glorious sound. This is helped by the fact these are all live studio recordings, all three players standing around a single condenser microphone.* Stepping in to take a solo, pulling away to give another instrument room, leaning forward to sing. A shining example it’s performers, tunes, and songs that make great records. Not technology.
3: TUNES (that get stuck in your head all day)
I can’t stop singing “Raleigh and Spencer”, I can’t stop whistling “Russian Rag”, there are more catchy tunes here than you need, and everyone is a catchy tune. It is a testament to The Corn Potato String Band that they can take a forgotten or just plain underplayed tune and make it beautiful and relevant once again. It’s like finding an old photo album and realizing that the people inside, although long dead, were once young and beautiful, filled with vitality and life. The treatment of the tunes and songs is not revenant or stuffy. It is not the academic, dry approach of string bands like The Black Twig Pickers. It is something more than that.
Take the rendition of the old chapel hymn “When can I read my title clear”, it is approached with a subtlety that makes you appreciate this was a working tune, sung by ordinary folk in the chapel on a Sunday. Lindsay and Aaron combining their voices to take you back to the wooden-floored, clapboarded frontier place of worship we recognize from any sixties spaghetti western. Whilst the all-out exuberance of “Silver Lake Polka” could be played in a kitchen with a jug of hooch on the side, or in a fancy parlour with Sherry served on a Silver tray. On top of this reworking of standards such as “Cumberland Gap” take your breath away. Simply stunning.
All in all just buy it and see for yourself. I am spent saying how much I like it. Sorry for gushing guys…
[25. January 2015]
CORN POTAO STRING BAND
Artwork by Ben Belcher – benbelcherart.com
All songs recorded and mixed at Sheriff Bob’s, NYC, by Max Johnson – except for ‘Raleigh And Spencer’ and ‘Little Black Train,’ which were recorded and mixed at RTÉ, Dublin, Ireland, by Mark McGrath.
Mastered by Richard Morris Mastering
“The Corn Potato String Band earns high praise in traditional American music, keeping old-time fiddle and banjo music from a one-way trip to the dustbins of history. Theirs is a story of struggle, hard knocks, and triumph. Essentially unable to cope with modern life, the members of this band are outcasts of society who survive by playing the lost music of the flatlands where they were raised.” – bio
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Marc Griffiths is the vocalist of The King Dukes, check out their recent single, “I Gotta Go”, here.