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Jugs Across America CD Review

Jugs Across America
Jugs Across America: A Modern Jug Band Compilation
Self released

Kellie Everette, Banjo Kellie from Escape The Floodwater Jug Band, has taken things up a notch with this new compilation, impishly titled Jugs Across America. It’s always been possible to find jug band music—either the original recordings, the ‘60s revivalists, or the geographically isolated contemporary proponents. For the first time in the new millennium, Kellie has brought together a cohesive collection of songs from 20 different bands from across the United States. It isn’t exaggerating to say that this CD is historic. JAA proves that jug band music isn’t just jokey nostalgia; it’s people reclaiming homemade entertainment with a deep tradition, firing a shot across the bow of the greedy fakery of contemporary pop music.

Of course, it’s also jokey nostalgia, too. Eleven out of 19 tracks here are performances of traditional songs, and kazoos and jugs are hard to hear without cracking a grin. No one here takes themselves too seriously, or restrains themselves from reaching for hokey Americana. But what ties all these performances together is their vitality and freshness. In a musical world, where studio trickery has turned everything into a form of electronic music, what is more revolutionary and liberating than getting together with friends and playing acoustic music? Even if you’re playing an old song you learned from thrift store sheet music or an 80-year-old 78 RPM record, every performance is a fresh act of creation.

Key tracks: “Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think)” by the Jim Kweskin Band. Jim Kweskin is jug music’s elder statesman, who came to prominence in the folk revival of the early ‘60s.  It may be the least ‘juggy’ track here, but his homely vocal style and the acoustic instrumentation are every bit as charming.
“Which Side Are You On?” by Wahoo Skiffle Crazies is a Wobbly Labor album, delivered with ragged brio. “Achin’ For Some Bacon,” Escape The Floodwater Jug Band’s entry is fronted by Kellie’s distinctive vibrato-laden alto.

But to single out individual songs does the album a disservice—there’s no duff tracks at all. The anthology format also gives you enough variation in style and instrumentation to keep it interesting for the whole hour.

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