The Dustbowl Revival’s latest album, Carry Me Away is sort of a more subtle, and vastly more diverse take on what Ween did with their country album. The cd cover shot shows the ten-piece band squeezed into a bright red Volkswagen Thing, which perfectly capsulizes their raucous but darkly sardonic appeal. That vehicle, originally built in the late 30s for the Nazi army, was reintroduced in 1974, with only a few minor modifications, for the American hippie market Likewise, the Dustbowl Revival might seem to be a deliriously fun oldtime party band – and they are. But they’re also the Spinal Tap of oldtimey music, mercilessly if sometimes lovingly skewering bluegrass, swing, noir cabaret and gospel, both the antique and 21st century versions. They’re bringing their high-voltage live show to Joe’s Pub on August 16 – give the shi-shi venue’s people credit for bravely booking such an intense band..
And they can be hilarious. You want hubris? Try Swing Low, Sweet Chariot with new lyrics about being buried alive, or John the Revelator done as period-perfect, jumpy early 30s swing. They’re just as good at vintage bluegrass – and they reinvent the old Civil War folk song Soldier’s Joy as a modern-day junkie ode to West Coast dope. Riverboat Queen, a parody of hi-de-ho circus rock, has singer Caitlyn Doyle steaming her way luridly to a trick ending. Frontman/songwriter Zach Lupetin reaches into both redneck country and hip-hop over swaying oldtime country blues on the amusing Hard River Gal; Josephine, which does a doo-wop melody as 20s hot jazz, might be the funniest song here.
The tuba waltz Barnacles might be a surrealistic circus rock satire…or a swipe upside the head of a trustafarian girl. Mayflower sets vintage ragtime guitar against 1950s funeral organ and an inscrutably weird storyline; the album ends with a live take of Shine, which sounds like the Wiyos before that group went into psychedelic rock and might be a parody of rock guys who try to play the oldtimey stuff and end up falling flat on their faces. Any way you look at it, this is one of the funniest yet most musically impressive, and diverse, albums in recent months.