Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange Review of Corn Potato String Band Volume 2

Volume 2, a live-in-studio recording (no overdubs!), follows up on The Corn Potato String Band’s very well received debut, which then saw them touring Ireland, the UK, Europe, and the US, most especially because, for a trio, they kick out a hell of a lot of extremely high-spirited music, masters of their instruments. As the promo cites, you’ll find twin fiddling, Ukrainian ragtime, mountain gospel, Mexican string music, and barn dance ditties but also a plentiful element of jug, and man-o-man, do I looooooove jug music!! More, while listening to the disc, me grinning like the monkey who just got done eating the fermented banana, a buddy dropped by, heard the refrains, and said “Cool! Have ya got Andy Griffith on? Is that The Darling Family???”. Thus you’ve a good idea exactly what you’re in for. Oh, and in case ya din’t know, the core of The Darlings was actually none other than The Dillards.

This is Americana and then some, taken spryly with a good deal of humor, a dose of seriousness, and sometimes reverence, but always with finger-lickin’ tasty chops everywhichwhere. Hard to tell who’s playing what at any point, as all (Aaron Jonah Lewis, Lindsay McLaw, Ben Belcher) are multi-instrumentalists, but it hardly matters, as there’s not a jot of grandstanding, just a deep love of the polyglot style and the sort of pinpoint precision and interplay one expects in swing, hot jazz (which took its cue from the styles the Corn Potato-ers inspissate), and bluegrass. ‘N hey, don’t tell anyone, but I strongly suspect ensembles like Mahavishnu Orchestra took cues from Appalachian musics as much as Carnatic. Sssssh! Don’t tell anyone! It’ll be our little secret.

The entirety of Vol. 2 is composed of trad / public domain cuts, and you’ll frequently recall Flatts & Scruggs in tracks like Lonesome John whether you know the tunes or not. Belcher’s also a cartoonist, and his artwork recalls a combination of several of the 60s underground artists combined in a vaguely Robert Crumb-ish modus. Before I glommed the promo lit, I caught sight of the cover and thought “Cool! What’s that?”.

For some reason, I’m really entranced by Bacon and Eggs with McLaw’s plaintive hoots ‘n hollers singing, the players at one point shifting the rhythm just enough to make you say “Hey! What happened there? I like it!”, but I’m tellin’ ya, fellow mountain men ‘n wimmens (even if you live in Chicago) you hafta grab this one because it’s a rare evocation of an era that’s sadly slipping away all too swiftly. Like Fahey? Like Kottke? Like Kweskin? Redbone? The Scruggsers? The Roys? Doc Watson? The Carters? All that and much more? Then you can’t live without The Corn Potato String Band. Cash them moonshine bottles in and sashay on down to the tradin’ post for a copy.

Track List:

Girl I Left Behind
Raleigh and Spencer
When I Can Read My Title Clear
Run Mountain
Silver Lake Polka
Russian Rag
Little Black Train
Lonesome John
Lime Rock
Bacon and Eggs
La Respingon
Cumberland Gap
Woodchuck in the Deadnin’
Going Across the Sea
Big Scioty

All compositions are public domain.
Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2015, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.