The title to this CD alone indicates what to expect: the unusual. Gans is a major, major, major Deadhead; has hung with 'em; written, with 'em; written on 'em; DJed their stuff on radio; and been billed beneath a gaggle of Dead devotee bands and group splinters. Sooooo…can you guess what his music sounds like?
The guy is also the consummate hippie -- unreconstructed, unflinching, and unapologetic -- thus a good deal of the material is explained just in that fact, a lot of it good, a small portion of it…well, cliché and didactic, especially in the lyrics. For this outing, he gathered a collection of very adept players, the stand-out of whom is Tim Carbone on violin, drums, harmonica, keys, and fire extinguisher (you read right). They provide a wheatstraw dais that Gans plays guitar and sings upon, decanting protest encouraging independent action and abandoning reliance on corporate America as well as corrupt conservative governance. Shove in the Right Direction is about job offshoring while Save Us from the Saved kicks uber-Christers in their well-upholstered rear ends, both cuts unhedging in their rebellion.
Gans is a firm believer in the jam band way of life, so this rich porridge of pickers 'n grinners wastes no time advantaging itself of the attitude. One hears a satisfying exhibition of feel-good, dance-away, listen-in-bliss music that roots itself in the old ways while ushering in modern strains and attitudes. An American Family, for instance, is an uncanny blend of D.A.R. geneophilia blended with the present economic crisis offset by a strong Carnatic strain in the long instrumental middle eight, clever as hell in what the writer's doing. I'll warn, though, that his vocal delivery is a bit monotonic, with little in the way of rangey niceties, but there's a longstanding place for that in folk and country, although the trait oft takes a bit of getting used to.
Place this in with groups like Hot Buttered Rum (here), Ten Mile Tide (here), and others. The mode has been around for quite a while, found its recentest apotheosis in the Dead, and is now undergoing subtle changes, most of which are staking out new borders. That's called 'progress', 'evolution', traits that appeal to curious and adventurous minds and eventually result in surprising plateaus. This type of group is getting there.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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