Portland's been home to a boatload of emerging and long-time talents, and Sassparilla presently joins the cavalcade, sparklingly rock-folk-rootsy in its instrumentation and bluesy in the lead singer's marvelously laconic voice (no clue who he is: once again, a promo copy and lit with no attributions), a weary encantation all too knowledgeable of the globe's deceptions and heartbreak. Fire Sale is Waits-ian and then some, with a touch of Bill Harkleroad in the guitar department, everything lightened by female refrains in the backing vocals. Barking by the front man just adds the sort of chucklesome ornamentation Tom himself would toss in, alley noises familiar to denizens of the underside.
Mephisto, booze, lorn love, and a bit of the old tongue-in-cheekery make their presences known in this collection of songs boasting some rather propulsive backbeats with intertwining harmonies and melodies. Expect washboard, harp, bucket drums, washtub bass, and other axes more common to jug music, but this ain't jug, Magee, and it's even danceable, but don't for a second image a disco floor. Surprising that, as a good deal of it is dark and smoky, but tarnation if'n you don't git ants in your pants as the disc spins. Hell, even the ballads—Cooling Board for instance—have a swing to 'em.
There is indeed a loose aspect to Ramshackle but it lies not in the presentation but rather a tone so well mastered that it has the deceptive aspect of ease and familiarity to the point of being glib. That's a virtue not easy to attain and accounts for what marks out territory in so few bands, an estate in which subtly loving parody becomes art+. It's right there in the lyrics and musicianship, perhaps best in the aforementioned Fire Sale, but so uncommon that the audient must come to the table with more than a little background. And that term probably best embodies what this ensemble and its music gift the anointed with: savvy……sabe?
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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