Once again, fellow FAME guy Frank Gutch Jr. has sallied to the Humanist rescue as our crit venue follows the sun towards the horizon. He asked sexy singer Brandi Hart to wing me a very very good CD caught in a crisis; that is, the now-dead band she appeared in, The Dixie Beeliners, fell apart while leaving creditors unpaid, a fact that has not sat well with her rather ethical nature. Through my Screen Door thus languished on the shelf for over two years as she tried every approach to convince erstwhile band members to do the right thing. That failing, she threw her hands up and just said 'Screw it, I'll put the damn thing out regardless and hope it pays for itself!' And well it should. The Beeliners were a superior group, and this, ironically, is their best work in a decade-long history. Think about the contradictions occurring in that contretemps, y'all, and then consider that they toured not only internationally but with such stellars as Little Feat, Fairport Convention, Alision Krauss, Richie Havens, Charlie Daniels, and a full catalogue of others.
The intro track, You Old Bag o' Bones, presages the tone of the entire album and is chockful not only of highly satisfying musicianship but also superb and humorously touching (not to mention highly erotic) lyrics, coquettish while homily wanton, exactly the sort of sentimentation we Boomers pine to hear as our engines start to run low and hinges begin evidencing the banes of rust and wear. The song in fact harks back to Maria Muldaur's classic Midnight at the Oasis but more pointedly and a good deal more heatedly ribald in its own country kitchen way. Alternatingly tongue-in-cheek playful, admirative, and cattily critical, lines like "You're over the hill but under-rated / I'm not so young but not outdated" demonstrate the levels of inference and denotation in the band's North 40 mindset, wry but never unmindful of the real world, gently cynical but loving…with a little hardtack thrown in for good measure.
The true star, though, is singer-writer Hart, even though composer-player Buddy Woodward is co-founder in what has been called, and I love this!, 'Bible Belt Noir' music within the folk/bluegrass/Americana genre. Flesh-Eating Flower, despite grim titular omens, is a paean to love and dubious freedoms wistfully encanted by a singer who's bewitching, saucy, and prairie-fence wise through the entirety of the repertoire, the kind of woman you'd grope blindly towards, starry eyes flashing, while knowing you couldn't put any BS over like ya do with the wenches down at the tavern. She'd have that sussed and strapped in an instant, and there would go your sweet lubricious future. Were FAME to last out the year, Screen Door would make it to next January's Best Of, and that would also score a trifecta for Mr. Gutch Jr., who previously sent the inimitable Tom House and Chris & Gileah my way, both scoring honors on the esteemed List. Alas for the defunct Beeliners and Ms. Hart, that's not to be, but we know one thing for sure: that Frank, he knows his music inside and out.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2015, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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