We got to see the New Hawleans Jug Band play a fantastic set in a wonderful location – Staines Riverside Club – last Thursday.
If a band like the ‘Old Crow Medicine Show’ is your particular jug o ‘whiskey – then the New Hawleans Jug Band is for you.
If those good ole’ mud-washed, yammering, clanking sounds of skiffle and spasm still make your teeth chatter and your old knees knock together, then you might do no better than a night out with these old timers.
They are not so much a ‘jug band’ (absence of the jug may remind you of this) but more a ‘Jugabilly’ band. Founding member ‘Al the Hat’ plays the blues harp. ‘Precious Pierre’ is on banjo and mandolin. Newly promoted (to front of stage) ‘ Jim-boy’ is on lead guitar and Steve is on his Mum’s washboard (I prefer the dirty Cajun French term for this instrument : The Frottoir.) Ewan plays stand-up bass and ‘Cool-Hand Luke’ fills in the gaps – on rhythm guitar – and provides lead vocals.
At the Staines Riverside Club we were treated to songs like “Devils In The Jukebox” ( Ray LaMontagne – ‘God Willin’ & the Creek Don’t Rise’ 2010). This song had some eloquent harmonies and succulent guitar. The notes seemed to penetrate smoothly into the air – before climbing up to the ‘Big Yellow Moon’.
“Man of Constant Sorrow” was another favourite. This faster paced number got our feet a-twitchin’ and our hands clapping. Although this is a Dick Burnet number – it is best known as the song recorded by George Clooney’s ‘Soggy Bottom Boys’ in the 2000 film ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ ( In the movie, George’s voice was actually provided by the bluegrass vocalist Dan Tyminski – from Alison Krauss and Union Station.)
The Felice Brothers cover “Whiskey In My Whiskey” was touching and mesmerizing. I last heard it on ‘Merlotte’s’ jukebox in Series One of HBO’s ‘True Blood’. It’s a gently whining traditional blues number – filled with plenty of sin and pity … after stuffing himself with ‘Uncle Jack’ the protagonist puts three rounds into his beloved ‘Eleanor Caroline’.
“Tell It To Me” alerted us to the dangers of Cocaine. Cocaine (habit) blues were a favourite subject for the old time jug bands. And this “Cocaine Blues” song was made famous by the ‘Old Crow Medicine Show’ (off the O.C.M.S. album) in 2004. The New Hawleans version was accurate, fast and intoxicating.
The wistfully melancholic harp that seemed to swirl smokily around the song ‘La La Blues ‘ was like the blue mists over Wax Lake. These sounds were then replaced by the nimble fingered guitar-work on songs like ‘Jesus On The Mainline’.
The musicianship on all of the songs was as tight and dry as sundried Spartina cordgrass – and played faster and sharper than a snapping turtle trapped in a jar. The accompanying vocals were as fresh and lively as the early-morning sun on Crab Orchard Mountains.
Cool-Hand Luke’s rasping yahoos filled the room at every opportunity, but his voice could also be introspective and deliciously soulful, if necessary. For example, we thoroughly enjoyed the traditional spiritual ‘Jesus On The Mainline‘ – (made famous by Ry Cooder ) – for its cool moodiness and reflective contemplation.
But this is a kazoo-party band. Thus, laughter and joy are to be expected. What better way to end the show than a raucous chorus of the crowd pleasing merry-go-round, which is ‘Plastic Jesus’? (Rush and Cromarty 1957.)
What a great band. And thanks also to Staines Riverside Club for hosting such an enjoyable evening.
– © Neil_Mach August 2013 –
See the band next at Weyfest Saturday, 31 August 2013