American music is alive and well with the release of the Black Twig Picker’s latest, Ironto Special, out now on Thrill Jockey Records. For me, the Black Twigs (Mike Gangloff, Isak Howell, and Nathan Bowles) are an important part of what keeps real American music alive and vital… in an age that seems to proliferate possibly the most soulless and mechanical music ever created (can you even call it music?) these guys wield their gritty musical axe, standing tall in today’s musical landscape.
Following closely on the heels of their last record, the essential Jack Rose and the Black Twig Pickers, Ironto Special saws, stomps and swings, and the trio, armed with fiddle, banjo, washboard, bones, and voices, serve up some damn hot numbers. Though the playlist mostly showcases traditional Appalachian tunes, the disc also features two kickin’ originals, “Smoker Wedding March” and “Craig Street Hop”. Sound-wise, the Black Twigs are rooted firmly, both musically and geographically, in Southern Appalachia, between Galax (Southwest Virginia) and Round Peak region in North Carolina (near Mount Airy). At times, though, their musical roots also steep just a bit north, heading up into central West Virginia, showing the influences of Tom Carter and Blanton Owens.
Being a huge fan of the banjo, I’m drawn to their recording of “Dead Man’s Piece”. ”Craig Street Hop”, “Ducks on the Pond”, and “Bonaparte’s March into Russia” are also other highlights. ”Walls of Jericho”, a tune by Sam McNiel of Floyd County, Virginia, also stands out in an arrangement for solo fiddle by Gangloff.
With Ironto Special, The Black Twig Picker’s keep the home fires burning, giving life’s blood to the living tradition that is American music…and long may they do so! I’m completely serious when I say “Come on America, lets get back to community… Screw “Dancing with the Stars!” Grab some Black Twigs records (or better yet, call em up and organize a show) and start dancin’ in barns, homes and grange halls again!
-- Buck Curran, Work & Worry