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April 8, 2008

Jugs, Washboards, & Kazoos

Some of the very fines of the early jug band sides. This music is carefree and highly buoyant. It is hipster music from the days of the first hipsters. Really it was much closer to the dixieland jazz of New Orleans (King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, etc) than it was to folk music or country blues, despite the rather do-it-yourself instrumentation of kitchen implements turned music-makers. Why the jugs, you may ask? Well they were cheeper than tubas, and in plentiful supply due to the amount of bootlegging that was going on. Likewise, a washtub was cheaper than a double bass, and a washboard was a great alternative to a sack full of drums (actually, come to think of it, there are no washtubs in these recordings). Kazoos were the obvious response to the trumpet, and harmonicas were already becoming a readily accepted and viable musical instrument. Though these instruments would become novelty items in decades to come, here they shine as brightly as the guitars, pianos, fiddles, banjos, clarinets, and saxophones which they accompany. And their particular tones are exploited perfectly, sounding wonderfully unlike anything before or since (check the sweet interplay between fiddle and jug on the Dixieland Jug Blowers sides). Couple this with an irresistibly insistent rhythmic groove that gets you hopping up and down whether you like it or not, and you have the makings of some seriously good-time music. Reefer has done some great things for the musical evolution of this century, let me tell you.

This disc shines for its spectacular selection. There's plenty of surface noise, so be warned, but the levels are fully present, having been ripped from vinyl on some professional recording equipment, so the music is really there and it sounds great (you soon won't even notice the clicks and pops, or the fact that you've been bouncing and stamping unconsciously for 40 minutes). There's some great ironic vocal deliveries (What Makes My Baby Cry), and even a mock-sermon on bootleggin' and short skirts (House Rent Rag) that parodies the sanctified jug bands. The standout tracks on this album are by the Dixieland Jug Blowers and Tiny Parham and his Musicians, all of which approach jazz and are both extremely contagious, fun-wise.

VA - Jugs, Washboards, & Kazoos
Dixieland Jug Blowers, Five Harmaniacs, Memphis Jug Band, Tiny Parham, Washboard Rhythm Kings
Year: 1967 (comp)
Label: RCA Victor
from old, scratchy vinyl | mp3 ~180kbps vbr | w/o covers | 60mb

out of print, though you can get the Complete Recorded Works of these guys from Document Records.

see also many jug band posts at Broke Down Engine, Merlin in Rags, and El Diablo Tun Tun. Do a search.


Anonymous said...

Great job on this site, including pointed and humorous opinions from the Irate Pirate, choice reviews, and an interesting method of classifying artists. Thanks for all your work. -- Kelpius

westwardwall said...

Its funny how one stream of enjoyable music often leads to another. As a young man I enjoyed the music of a New York band called the Lov'n Spoonful. They seemed to remind me of Louis Prima for some reason but then I learned that they were into jug band music and I decided to get some albums of jug band. I liked what the folkies were doing with it and when I finally arrived at the earlier sources I was over joyed. So, thanks for posting this one and all the others

westwardwall said...

Next time I will tell you how The Byrds led me to Coltrane and a love of jazz. Ok?