No, that 'Eno' you see above isn't he of Brit fame, Brian Eno, but instead Jeff Eno, most definitely a Southerner very happily immersed in the region's timbre. He and Steed Kettles met in the Skin 'N Bones band, after which Eno got together a jam band, Warped Groove, while Kettles joined up-and-comers Liberty Jones in the early 90s. However, yay far into Jones' work, Kettles found the ensemble needed a more resonant vocal presence and thus invited Jeff in, who was more than willing. That accomplished, the band changed its style to a decidedly Americana slant. 2007 rolled around, and Liberty Jones issued their final record to worldwide press and radio play. That wasn't the end of the story.
Steed Kettles is a songwriter through and through, and such people don't rest for long. They're artists, they gotta create or go crazy…or is it the other way around? They go crazy and then they write? Hard to tell, especially with a cat like Kettles who possesses a highly Warren Zevonesque sense of humor, bowlegged drama, smiling cynicism, and just good ol' rhythms. Writing all the while, he one day rang Eno up, they got together, decided to get all 'assholes and elbows' on us (y'all Northerners mightn't be too familiar with the phrase but Southerners, especially Southern factory workers, know it well, as a synonym for 'productive') and, eight months later, had the material for The Jake Leg Chronicles, an album a hell of a lot more honest than anything Lynyrd Skynrd, Hydra, Molly Hatchet, or even Charlie Daniels ever issued. There's just something about being indie that frees the mind and typewriter, and so Kettles / Eno dug in their heels.
There's Southern shout and rebel yell here, but it's been greatly humanized, socially reconstructed. In Kettles' words, humans are "always wanting everyone to be what the Bible says, Love one another like Jesus does or the Golden rule states…in the day time anyhow; when the sun goes down, it's pretty much a free-for-all", and it's that kind of dualism that informs Steed's jaundiced but highly hopeful regard throughout the CD. We're just human after all…aren't we?
Gritty and unwilling to mince words but never quite nasty, the lyrics are enlightening, funny, thoughtful, and often golden but always cleave to that fundamental question and its resolution. The music's folk-Southern, perhaps best underscored in Blood Brothers, a twangy ballad about racial prejudice and fickly shifting human emotions, but frequently rockin', Jim Lavendar's lead guitar work a huge contribution. The lyrics, though…man, those lyrics, they tell great stories.
Oh, and 'jake leg'? It refers to a backhills moonshine practice of distilling through a car radiator, which adds in radiator fluid and affects the imbiber's motor skills, making him walk with a weird gait, a 'jake leg' (other times called a 'jack leg' in the movies: jackleg likker, y'all). In line with that, as the witty promo sheet writer observed, Ketttles and Eno are "not trying to reinvent the wheel, only trying to enhance the ride…sure to turn heads and twist some ankles". Yep, yep, yep, I wholeheartedly agree, and this is a duo/band that you'd return to time and again were they appearing at your favorite local watering hole.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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