Peter Stampfel and The Worm All-Stars. A Sure Sign of Something

Blabber’n’Smoke makes no excuses for featuring Peter Stampfel again. This Greenwich Village veteran and peer of Dylan back in the early sixties continues to amaze us with his vitality and infectious enthusiasm. His Glasgow gig back in January with Jeffrey Lewis was a sheer delight and in person he is simply astounding, a pleasure to spend a few moments with. So much so that at that gig I stumbled away without picking up a copy of the album he’s recorded with Lewis. Nevertheless of late Stampfel has been on a roll both live and in the studio and this collaboration with Dutch avant garde musicians The Worm All-Stars is a fine addition to his canon.
Stampfel met these guys when he was in Amsterdam for a screening of the Holy Modal Rounders’ documentary, Bound to Lose. Invited to perform after the screening they offered to back him up. According to Stampfel’s delightful liner notes he was so enthralled by them he invited them over to New York to rehears some songs. He then followed them back to the Netherlands to record this album.
The Worm All-Stars consist of Lukas Simonis on guitar and bass, Nina Hitz on cello and keyboards and the astonishing Alan Purves on all manner of percussion and noseflutes with all three contributing to the vocals. Although described as an avant garde noise troupe they manage to carry off a very fine old country type sound allowing Stampfel to indulge in his love of traditional Americana. Several of the songs are old traditionals while others are more recent, written by Stampfel and his compadres with one contribution from Simonis.
Of course this being Peter Stampfel this album is far from a retread of old and new folk numbers. The band add a tremendous sense of adventure and at times plain old sonic wizardry while Stampfel stamps his authority all over the piece, vocally and musically. Recalling the wild adventure that was The Holy Modal Rounders in their earlier incarnations songs like Last Chance and Peg ‘N Awl disinter the old Harry Smith Anthology sound and revive it much as Victor Frankenstein did with his creature, awesome and dangerous yet with a simple sense of wonder.
Revisiting songs from his past there is a fine version of Midnight In Paris from Have Moicy while the infamous Rounders song Fucking Sailors in Chinatown which opens the album is as anthemic as ever. This should have been on the Rogues Gallery CD spawned by the Pirates of the Caribbean movies if there were any justice. Simonis’ song, Maximum Spare Ribs is a mutant Ghostriders In the Sky with the ghostriders replaced by insurance salesmen! Time and again one is struck by the playing on this album but special mention must be given to percussionist Purves who populates all of the songs with all sorts of clutter and clatter. Stomping bass drums and skittering sticks abound with perhaps the best example being the aforementioned Last Chance where the cacophony is added to by some excellent violin screeching and fine guitar from Simonis. Stampfel and Hitz work brilliantly together on the skeletal One Will Do For Now which creaks and groans like old timber.
The album is well packaged with liner notes on all of the songs by Stampfel. He pays special mention to Shambolar, a song originally by Sherriff and the Ravels from 1958 describing it as “the Rosetta stone connecting African music, Caribbean music and doo-wop. The version here offers full rein to Purves’ percussion on a chant that could as easily have come from Paul Simon’s Graceland or an old Fugs’ record. The connection, I’m sure is there.
An added bonus to this excellent album for Scottish listeners is a hidden song at the end. Percussionist Alan Purves originally hails from Edinburgh and he provides a spoken tale, A Wee Fortune, a scatological account of a night out in Edinburgh from his youth which is darkly humorous and brings to mind a meeting of Ivor Cutler and Irvine Welsh.
Buy it here
Drunken Banjo Waltz

http://lukas.home.xs4all.nl/english/lukas.html#discography

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