Small rosetwigs lp cover

Black Twig Pickers and Jack Rose: Jack Rose & the Black Twig Pickers

This one comes in a solid black card case with contrasting white lettering in Impact font appearing as a Lettrist print of Modernist tendencies. That is until you read the lettering and discover it’s probably a foray into the roots of Americana courtesy of Jack Rose & Co. Those who have fallen for the many recent JR records will find an album less about introversion and exquisite solo guitar explorations (in the vein of Fahey), but more about good old rocking and ranting with honesty, drama and a shit load of whiskey! The playful union of the four musicians involved remains tight throughout, yet there is an organic feeling to the sound that dirties the crisp production wonderfully. Mike Gangloff’s strings ignite alongside JR’s finger plucking, with some tempered percussion from Nate Bowles. Piercing Harmonica from Isak Howell gets the party into full swing. The album feels like a journey through early American music, yet has an approach that feels like it’s been handed down to the players rather than studied. There is little of the polish and insincerity that accompanies many country, folk and roots practitioners.

The quieter toe tapping moments (see ‘Sail Away Ladies’), draw from tradition with a gracious hand that never feels trite or contrived. The players deliver intricate music with a grace that allows the listener to truly imagine they’re pitched on wooden floorboards in barn under a starry sky. The album opens with possibly the weakest track in the form of ‘Little Sadie’, where Gangloff’s vocals sound a little strained, and whine with an ill-timed feel. There’s an improvement in his delivery come ‘Hand Me Down My Walking Cane’, where his tone is believable and achieves the narrative’s black humour. The banjo plucking twangs gloriously in the barn behind. ‘Some Happy Day’ feels just like Fahey’s ‘How Green Was My Valley’ (previously covered by JR). This is a definite highlight with unparalleled guitar playing. ‘Ride Old Buck’ rocks with the power of Mississippi John Hurt; its antiquity made fresh. ‘Revolt’ begins as one might imagine a JR record, but soon becomes a swinging rhythm and blues number. Contained within the roster are classic JR outings, a highlight being ‘Kensington Blues’ which takes a sunny guise, juxtaposed to its usual veneer. The final goodbye is a holler from a charming recovering alcoholic reminiscing about the bad old days of whiskey drinking and vice. ‘Goodbye Booze’ has such a warm glow; it could have been snapped from ‘Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music’. I’m now heading for the drinks cabinet. Gonna poor myself a long one and sit on my balcony while the summer breeze tickles my unclipped toes. 8/10

-- Peter Taylor

Foxy Digitalis