Album Reviews

Music You Don't Know You Like Yet

BLACK JAKE AND THE CARNIES

Where The Heather Don't Grow

2011-05-15

Nick's Picks: Every One

FCC ALERT: Not on this cd

Review of Black Jake & The Carnies Where The Heather Don't Grow

The banner says it all, "The Original Kings of Crabgrass"! Now, I'm a sucker for good bluegrass, and this is good! The sound comes off like a Bluegrass version of music along the lines of Celtic bands such as Dropkick Murphy, or Flogging Molly; with Bluegrass, egos get checked at the door, and the singing is not nearly of the quality of the music being played. Most times a story is woven throughout the song being played, and this is definitely the case with this talented band. Black Jake is clearly the designated "singer", but he and his band-mates are musically talented, and really know how to “get-down” with a Pixies-like bluegrass style (“Paper Outlaw", Crazy MacCready's"), and from there directly on to a "Faith and Begorrah" long-winded mountain music-like folk song (“Where The Heather Don't Grow”) – complete with the lonesome wail of the fiddle and strumming of mandolin and banjo. I have to admit that I just don't get some songs, and Black Jake and The Carnies have their share. I'll just note them and move on: "No Diamond Ring" (catchy mountain music); "Styxferry County" might be a nod to Charlie Daniels Band, but it lacks the catchy hooks; "Bone Man" seems to be derivative, but it definitely tells a good story; "Happy Easter To Ya" has the same beat as "Bone Man", but (once again) it tells an interesting story. Although the band holds true to the bluegrass tempo and instrumentation, they do manage to churn out some tasty originals ("Jasper Watkins", "Hunter's Moon"), as well as at least one (slightly skewed) cover - "Swing Low". If I were to sum up this band in one word, I would have to use the word "hoedown". This is one of those bands with so much energy, you just have to see them live.

And that's my two nickels worth................Nick

ARTIST BIO: Black Jake & the Carnies was stillborn on October 31, 2002. The band played a single show, recorded some songs, and promptly died. All this meant was Black Jake finally had something to dissect. Over the next couple years, Jake stitched his baby back together with parts unearthed from the graveyards of american music. By 2006, the infant was looking more and more like its daddy and, once again, showing signs of life. After a couple solo shows, it became apparent, all the little monster needed now was a bit more blood. Blood, it turns out, ain’t that hard to find. Gus, the only original Carnie still fiddlin’ lived just up the block from Black Jake. It was rumored that Zachariah, who lived direct across the street from Gus, played mandolin. Joe Cooter, whose property line ends near Zach’s backyard, plucked bass. Up the road a bit Cooter heard the thumpin' of Kingpin Lalonde's big bass drum and scratchin' on his washboard vest. By then, there were enough Carnies to take pretty much whatever they wanted by brute force, and J.C. was quickly corralled. Black Jake had his Carnies and the monster had its blood.

Black Jake and the Carnies is:

Black Jake: singing, songwriting, banjo

Gus Wallace: fiddle

Zach Pollock: mandolin

Joe Cooter: bass guitar

Kingpin Billy Lalonde: drums

J.C. Miller: accordian

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Compiled by the WYCE Journalism Club

The opinions expressed in these reviews are those of the individual volunteers that submitted the article and do not necessarily reflect the views of WYCE or GRCMC; nor its staff, donors, or affiliates.