Monday, November 21, 2011

Album of the Week: Nightclub Jacks and Undertakers by Chicken Tractor Deluxe

In an age where many country music fans think music from the 1990's is "classic country," Chicken Tractor Deluxe goes much further back for their musical inspiration - all the way to the 1890's! With hints of ragtime (Please Don't Talk To Me) and sharecropper blues (Boll Weavil,) Nightclub Jacks and Undertakers mines the rich spectrum of American music from an era before genres and top 40 charts. Like Steve Martin's The Crow and Michele Shocked's Arkansas Traveller, Nightclub Jacks and Undertakers enthusiastically revives American "front porch" music. Driven by Kai Schafft's wonderfully frenetic banjo picking, Chicken Tractor Deluxe plays like a down home hootenany. With at least three band members taking turns on lead vocals, and instrumental flourishes provided on acoustic guitar, fiddle, harmonica, mandolin, and an occasional trumpet; this album feels like an impromptu jam session at an old genral store. Like a jam session where Union Station and Squirrel Nut Zippers happen to drop by! There are many standout moments on this album, but I am drawn to "Trail of the Lonesome Pine" and "Cuckoo." With their references to the Blue Ridge Mountains and log cabins, they capture lyrically what the rest of the album evokes emotionally in music. This album truly captures an era and an attitude. Lately, more bands (and fans) are rediscovering this uniquely American attitude of self reliance and musical independence. So on the eve of Thanksgiving 2011, I give thanks for our American musical heritage. And I am thankful that bands like Chicken Tractor Deluxe are keeping that spirit alive!

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