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Tag: Dustbowl Revival review

A Brand-New Live Album and a Rare Small Club Date by the Irrepressible Dustbowl Revival

The Dustbowl Revival‘s New York show on the 21st is a classic case of a national touring act who are huge on the road being squeezed into a smaller room than they’re accustomed to. Where is the mighty, exhilarating, sardonically original oldtime Americana band playing? The Beacon Theatre? Radio City? Bowery Ballroom? Nope. Union Hall, up the block from Key Food in Park Slope. They hit the stage at 8:30; cover is a measly $8.

This band defines itself with its sense of humor: even the band name is funny. Who would ever want to revive an invasion of starving Okies with mattresses on top of their cars? The group has a live album – which more bands should be making – titled With a Lampshade On, due out monentarily. The title track, fueled by Daniel Mark’s mandolin and Connor Vance’s fiddle, is a characteristically lickety-split punkgrass romp, a litany of things you basically shouldn’t be doing, with or without drunken headgear. The other track from the album that’s up online is Never Had to Go, a bouncy acoustic take on oldschool 50s C&W sung by uke and washboard player Liz Beebe.

Another of this band’s distinguishing characteristics is that they’re the rare string band with a horn section, which adds extra brightness and energy. That’s Matt Rubin on trumpet and Ulf Bjorlin on trombone. The remainder of the album hasn’t hit the group’s Bandcamp page along with the rest of their exuberant catalog; bookmark the link and check back soon. Interestingly, it’s a departure from the band’s earlier material – the vernacular is less antique (mid 20th century rather than 1920s and before) and the sound is beefier, maybe as a result. For example, Hey Baby is a lot more electric and expansive than the band usually gets, a swaying New Orleans-flavored funk number. The version of Old Joe Clark here amps up the shuffling, oldtime proto-bluegrass vibe with the punchiness of the brass. Speaking of brass, that’s what Beebe brings to the 60s-style soul number Feels Good, which also has long trumpet and trombone solos. And frontman Zach Lupetin plays electric guitar on another sweetly swaying oldschool soul ballad, Standing Next To Me

Ballad of the Bellhop is one of the band’s usual funny stories set to jaunty oldtimey swing, the droll muted brass lines matching the mood. Bright Lights is a brand new genre, a narcobolero, pulsing along with a slinky groove from drummer Joshlyn Heffernan and bassist James Klopfleisch. After that, the band picks up the pace with Cherokee Shuffle, a mashup of bluegrass and western swing, then takes it back down again with the slow-simmering, dixieland-spiced kiss-off ballad Doubling Down On You.

Ain’t My Fault is a New Orleans second-line shuffle with what sounds like a tapdancing solo from Lupetin that the crowd goes wild for – this is one of those rare moments when you wish the album was a DVD. They go into hi-do-ho noir for the brisk Drop in the Bucket, then slow things down with the sly soul slink Wrapped up in My Heart. They wind things up with Whiskey in the Well, a high-spirited dixieland romp. Where their studio albums are more about stories, and jokes, and sometimes satire, this one’s more about the music – which makes sense for a concert recording.

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The Dustbowl Revival Bring Their Hilarious, Eclectic Oldtime Sounds to NYC

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.