Making new Americana music presents a real problem, since the genre is at least partly premised on sounding old. One solution is to sound old-timey in the theatrical tradition of exaggerated hill-billery that runs from Merle Haggard to the Bowerbirds. JP Whipple works on the gothic end of this spectrum, where everyone is either an orphan, an alcoholic, or a drunk orphan. Here is America as carnival show—nihilistic spoons and banjos galloping along with an untuned piano.
Bible Milk nails the atmosphere. It opens with birdsong and chain gang, and the next 40 minutes sound spooky and fun. When Whipple relaxes into this tone, as on the moving "Brave New World," he makes satisfyingly honest songs. Too often, though, he uses the songs to make the tone, and much of Bible Milk gets stuck in jokey, minor dirges. And skits—it's got more skits than an Easy-E album.
Here's the thing, though: He's a one-man band. If you go see him, there will be no skits and he'll be playing, like, six instruments. One suspects that is the world where JP Whipple really lives, and that it's the one where he sounds most real.
JP Whipple plays the Top Hat Wednesday, July 13, at 10 PM. $3.