We’ve mentioned Hillfolk Noir before with their fine fly on the wall recording Skinny Mammy’s Revenge. A companion album recorded live at the Old Idaho Penitentiary was even better with the Boise, Idaho combo letting loose on a bunch of exhilarating stringband/jugband/old time songs. Now, according to their website, we have a name for their particular way with a tune, Junkerdash. Junkerwhat? Well they say that Junkerdash has “multiple definitions up to and including “psychedelic swamp-shack rags.”” So that’s that settled, who are we to argue?
Spreading Junkerdash across the airwaves then this latest release comes in the guise of an old time radio show from the forties the likes of which were beamed across the South and Midwest allowing folk to listen to their musical heroes. A nice concept and the album opens with some waveband search sound effects before settling on the Hillfolk Noir station. The band add a commercial for Hillfolk Wild Root Cream Oil which surely would have Ulysses Everett McGill forsake his “Dapper Dan” pomade.
Aside from the old time radio show idea the meat and potatoes on here are the songs, all written by mainman Travis Ward and all of them excellent with not one clunker in sight. Ward writes on topics and themes that are so well worn and familiar as to be past bothering about and it’s a measure of his skills that he can breathe new life into them. The instrumentals are infectious and lively with a large dose of humour thrown in such as on the brief Pig Town Jug Blues where it sounds as if the kazoo player has forgotten the kazoo while Rattler In The Outhouse would have the dead tap their feet. He can be deliciously goofy and romantic as on Hand In Hand or channel Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues as if it were being performed by a coked up Hank Williams on Trash Can. Working here as a five piece the band employ the the expected guitar, banjo, washboard and percussion along with“Tooth Knuckle,” “Coot Hooter” and “Clanker.” The playing is excellent with Ballad of a Lonely Rounder standing out with its singing saw and syncopated rhythym.
It’s safe to say that this album sets a gold standard for Junkerdash music. For those who live outwith the Hillfolk Noir universe it’s probably the best old time string band album of the year so far and for anyone who thinks it’s somewhat anachronistic to celebrate old time radio by listening to a CD the band have a limited edition 10” vinyl version for sale. You can see and hear them for yourself when the band plays their first UK tour in June with several Scottish dates. You can check them here
Ballad Of A Lonely Rounder