You have to admire an act who name themselves after a notorious assassin, sing songs about Charlie Manson and stick a crucified walrus on their album cover, a death metal combo perhaps? Well John Wilkes Boothe And The Black Toothe confound expectations as it transpires that they are a trio from Ashville, North Carolina who eschew Satanic riffs and instead offer up an intricate acoustic folk stew that blends the likes of the Violent Femmes, Incredible String Band, Jeffrey Lewis, Lewis Carroll, Comus and Pearls Before Swine into a beguiling dish.
Comprised of Ben Melton, Myles Holt and Paul Blackwood the trio weave their guitars and occasional percussion expertly while they introduce a sense of naivety with their slight voices and the absurdism of some of the lyrics which feature unicorns, walruses, goatchilds, ostriches and octopi. Although on paper this might appear twee as hell they avoid mawkishness instead evoking the spirit of adventure and exploration that characterised the more leftfield exponents of early folk rock.
Opening song The Possum is a fine introduction to the weird world of the Toothe with its hint of incest set to a high lonesome harmonica. They delve deeper into darker tones with the cadaverous The Carrion which is one of the weirdest love songs we’ve ever heard but the highlight here is the sinister and absurd surrealism of One Foot. A love song to a woman who is only one foot tall it has a beguiling delivery that is hypnotic and spellbinding.
Weird indeed but often weird is good.