Tuesday, January 20, 2015

R. Crumb and His Cheap Suit Serenaders - Chasin' Rainbows

R. Crumb's love for the music of the 20's and thereabouts is well known to any fan of the artist, but I did not own any of his recordings until I got this great CD for Xmas (thanks honey!). Here Crumb (banjo/vocals) and his Serenaders (Allan Dodge - mandolin, violin, ukulele, vocals; Robert Armstrong - guitar, accordion, banjo, saw, vocals; Terry Zwigoff - cello) recreate these sounds with precision, talent and fluidity as well as humor and plenty of fun.

While the vocals are more energetic and enthusiastic than truly "good", the styling does fit the genre to good effect. I was not familiar with any of the songs previous to hearing this record, but everything here is fine stuff. Opening with the "Hail Hail the Gang's All Here" pep of "Alabama Jubilee" that has some nice slide guitar that continues into "Chasin' Rainbows" which also includes a terrific saw solo. An original that seems to have something to do with Crumb, "Fine Artiste Blues", is a peppy, fiddle howdown, followed by their "Hula Medley" that, naturally, features ukulele and slide guitar and "I Want a Little Girl" that includes a guest musician on bells! "Persian Rug" has some cool mid-eastern sounds mixed with the Serenaders' standard tones, with accordion, mandolin and saw giving it a taste of the exotic and then they create haunting cartoon music with "Mysterious Mose". There's an old-fashioned Rudy Vallee blues in "Crying My Blues Away", another peppy "The Gang's All Here" type tune in "She Lived Down By the Firehouse", semi-circus sounds in the instrumental "Diane", a bouncey "Make My Cot Where the Cot-Cot-Cotton Grows" and an appropriately titled finale "Moana March".

If you dig old-time sounds, then this is certainly one to get. Great material and great playing!