Friday, March 22, 2024

Archive Review: The Tarbox Ramblers' The Tarbox Ramblers (2000)

The Tarbox Ramblers
Listening to the Tarbox Ramblers CD is like taking a trip back in time to a different musical era. This talented foursome renders authentic covers of antique songs like a counterfeit artist kicks out phony C-notes – seamlessly and with a great deal of skill. Mining a musical milieu that is exclusively early twentieth century, the Ramblers deftly jump from delta blues to pre-war jazz to jug band hoedowns. The results are intoxicating, each song bringing with it a welcome rush of recognition as the Ramblers lend a contemporary feel to this traditional material without robbing the songs of their rustic roots.

Among the high points on this self-titled debut are a knock-down version of Bukka White’s classic “Shake ‘Em On Down,” the mesmerizing prison song-styled “Stewball” with call-and-response vocalization and a magnificent, laid-back reading of “St. James Infirmary.” Although they add a few lyrics here and there and have arranged the material in a manner that is guaranteed not to scare away the weak of heart, the Tarbox Ramblers nonetheless offer a great deal of respect to these songs. They treat the material with the reverence that it deserves even while having a lot of fun performing it. For anybody interested in early American music, I’d heartily recommend the Tarbox Ramblers’ debut as a primer, a gateway to greater pleasures beyond. (Rounder Records)    

Review originally published by Alt.Culture.Guide™ zine, 2000 

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