Live at Camp Rude Bluegrass Festival
What a bunch of jokers, those boys in Iron Lasso! (The exclamation point is theirs, by the way). You have to have a few funny bones in your pickin’ hand to create your own campy bluegrass arrangements of Tommy James and the Shondells’ (later Tiffany’s) “I Think We’re Alone Now” and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” which is exactly what this quintet does on its new release, Live at Camp Rude Bluegrass Festival. If that doesn’t give you the idea that these guys like to play around, check out the stage names: “Dr. C.J. Lightning, Ph.D,” “Rev. Lieutenant Eddie Diamond,” “Sisco Cardanio,” “‘Pistol’ Dick Oakland” and “Mitchel Perez.” Iron Lasso! usually claims to be from Missoula, although they’ve also been known to call Bald Knob home from time to time (a city which I formerly thought only existed in the context of Beavis and Butthead Do America). The Iron boys played a particularly crowd-pleasing show at Parkfield, Calif.’s Camp Rude festival this past Mother’s Day weekend, and the results provide for a stomping, grinning, back-slapping-good live album. The only problem is the number of songs followed by someone in the band saying, “Mighty fine.” Time for a new adjectival closer, guys. Music doesn’t usually inspire laughter unless it’s really bad, but Iron Lasso! has found a way to get silly while retaining the integrity of its musicianship—which, by the way, is fantastic.
Another One Lost
Lake Trout sounds nothing like the name would indicate. Jam band-haters breezing over this review section will most likely pass this one up on the assumption that the band’s a Phish, Leftover Salmon, Hot Tuna or Aquarium Rescue Unit side project. But Lake Trout owes little to jam and much to dissonance, feedback, found sounds and more dissonance.
Another One Lost, the band’s second studio release, is like slow-motion film of a Versailles-era chandelier pulling loose from the plaster and crashing into a marble floor. It’s beautiful at points, but always plummeting toward imminent disaster. Lead singer Woody Ranere has a forceful, mournful voice—even when he’s not imitating Radiohead’s Thom Yorke on rare occasions, the Cure’s Robert Smith. Drummer Mike Lowry plays like a metronome on ephedrine. Matt Pierce adds brief respites from the discord with flute and keyboard fills, but mostly just adds to the mess.
The album departs from the soul and acid-jazz influences that Lake Trout began with and steps wholeheartedly into experimental noise rock. Even the recording techniques have left convention behind—the vocals and guitars sound like they were miked in a damp, dark mineshaft. Another One Lost is the sound of a band with momentum.
Allt e Skit
Gothenburg Collapse 666
If you know anything about Sweden and Swedish, the name of this band and the name of the album pretty much tell you everything you need to know. “Skit” means “shit,” as in “Shitsystem” and Everything is Shit. Think these guys are going to sound like the Cardigans?
Shit, no! This is total hardcore. Despite the glutted field of Swedish bands still flogging more or less the same Discharge sound imported to the country by bands like Anti Cimex back in the early ’80s, Skitsystem still manages to plow a smoking furrow of its own. The cluster-bomb guitars blazing in lock-step to the galloping Discharge drums, a seriously baleful singer howling about open revolt and bastard lies—there’s nothing new about it, but Skitsystem might just do this sound the best of the pack.
Allt e Skit comprises three past releases: the 1995 Profithysteri 7”, the 10-song 1996 Ondskans Ansikte 10”, and Skitsystem’s side of a split 7” with fellow Swedish crusters Wolfpack (a band featuring Anti Cimex singer Patrik Jonsson, incidentally). All these releases originally came out on the Distortion label, Scandinavia’s equivalent to Minneapolis hardcore label collective Profane Existence. If any of these trivialities mean a thing to you, you know that Skitsystem is not a band to be taken lightly, nor listened to during anything resembling a restful or contemplative mood. The singer sounds like he’s torn something loose in his throat. He’s one ticked-off bro from the snow!
Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson, Ricky Skaggs
The Three Pickers
Seems almost impossible that it hadn’t happened before now, but here you have it: Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson and Ricky Skaggs onstage together for the first time ever, Winston-Salem, N.C., December 2002.
It’s a little sad that whoever’s marking these three eminences (PBS, it seems, for a documentary) felt the need to appropriate operatic schtick to get the idea across, and the sticker advertising Alison Krauss’ minor presence speaks a little too clearly of the extent to which roots music has fallen in line with the star-pimping desperation of pop.
That said, the music itself is a quiet, humble affair: no flashy star-turns, as much harmony as Scruggs’ inability to sing allows and a mood of porch-sittin’ congeniality that can’t seem to help but bubble from Doc Watson’s inimitable avuncularity.
The set list is pretty subdued, too, light on the well-worn standards (“Roll in my Sweet Baby’s Arms” aside). But what’s better than what you’ve heard before is what you probably haven’t, like Earl Scruggs on “Soldier’s Joy,” playing banjo in the clawhammer style he made obsolete.