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Review: GutBucket Jug Band's Engruntlement (Aus)

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GutBucketeer 06 Oct 05 - 01:27 PM
Roger the Skiffler 07 Oct 05 - 09:28 AM
rich-joy 07 Oct 05 - 07:20 PM
GutBucketeer 11 Oct 05 - 03:43 PM
JohnInKansas 12 Oct 05 - 03:25 PM
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Subject: Review: GutBucket Jug Band's Engruntlement (Aus)
From: GutBucketeer
Date: 06 Oct 05 - 01:27 PM

A couple of months ago, Tony Dunn, posted at the JugBand Yahoo Group that the Gutbucket Jug Band's 2nd CD "Engruntlement" was now available in the U.S. through CDBaby ( ). I was glad to hear it because Phil Donnison (Mic Conway's National Junk Band & Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band) had mentioned them to me, and I was able to get their 1st CD "Pussyfooting" from the same source. It had quickly become one of my favorite CDs of all time. However, as with other small Aussie releases, it had been impossible to get "Engruntlement" in the States.   

Well......I now have "Engruntlement" and wanted to provide a brief review of it to expand people's awareness of the band. Note however, that I'm biased and feel that The Gutbucket Jug Band is one of the best, if not the best, extant true jug bands in the world today. Their signature sound is jazz focused consisting of; Tony Dunn's driving jug playing and Colin Stevens' emotive vocals mandolin and harmonica, overlaid by Tim Shaw's clarinet solos and supported by Brent Davey's banjo and Ron Davis' guitar rhythms. All of their songs are well arranged with every note heard and adding to the whole, rather than sounding like a loose jam of chord playing, competing solos, and percussion clatter that many of today's jug bands produce. On this CD, Ken Farmer joins the group on washboard and percussion which really completes and fills out the sound. Also, Tim switches to recorder on several tunes creating a sound reminiscent of the cane flute used in some of Clifford Hayes AH Louisville Jug Band, or Whistler's Jug Band Recordings.

If anything, Engruntlement is more jazz oriented than their first CD with only 2 of the 14 songs coming from what could be called the traditional jugband/blues repertoire (Death Letter Blues, and He's In the Jail House Now). Jazz/Standard tunes include: A Hundred Year's From Today; Temptation Rag; Once In A While; Comes Love; Hiawatha; Nuages; If I Had You; Stompin' at the Savoy; Close Your Eyes; and Embraceable You. Jay Unger's Ashokan Farewell and the south sea island Guabi Guabi are also included. My favorites are; Death Letter Blues where Colin's vocals really stand out; He's in the Jailhouse Now as an upbeat jazzy almost dixieland tune (the best rendition I've every heard); and Comes Love which builds musically.

What the CD does is really highlight the excellent musicianship of the band's members.

Tony Dunn somehow gets a deep richness and resonance from his jug that I've never heard before. His solos on A Hundred Years From Today, Temptation Rag, and Close to You really show what can be done with the Jug.

Colin provides most of the vocals and illustrates how versatile a singer he really is, from a rough down and dirty sound in Death Letter Blues to smooth crooning in Close Your Eyes. In fact, he is so good that the band may rely on him a little too much for the vocals rather than having others take the lead to add some diversity to the sound. From Guabi Guabi on this CD, and 2 songs on Pussyfooting we know that the other guys can sing well too. His mandolin and harmonica work are also fantastic throughout.

Tim is simply an incredible clarinet player whose solos and background playing set the mood and feeling of many of the songs. He adds a swing feel to Death Letter Blues, and helps make He's in the Jail House Now an upbeat almost dixieland song. On the other hand his playing becomes dark and mysterious in Close Your Eyes and brings up images of dark rainy streets and Bogart in Nuages.
Throughout, Brent, Ken, and Ron keep the rhythm going on banjo, washboard, and guitar. Ken doesn't overpower his washboard playing and uses the woodblock's almost like bones. Ron adds some fine guitar solos in Hiawatha and Nuages.

If there any weak points they are the background vocals in Stomping at the Savoy, and the arrangement of Ashoken Fairwell. While still good they don't reach the same standard of excellence as the rest of the CD.

In summary, a fantastic CD, that should be on the shelf of anyone interested in jugband and 20's & 30's jazz/novelty music. I look forward to their next CD which they are now recording.

(aka Jim Bunch)

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Subject: RE: Review: GutBucket Jug Band's Engruntlement (Aus)
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 07 Oct 05 - 09:28 AM

Thanks, Jim, I'll be adding this to my letter to Santa!


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Subject: RE: Review: GutBucket Jug Band's Engruntlement (Aus)
From: rich-joy
Date: 07 Oct 05 - 07:20 PM

Thanks for the tip, Jim!
Have just ordered my copy through Cracked Records in Oz!

Cheers! R-J

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Subject: RE: Review: GutBucket Jug Band's Engruntlement (Aus)
From: GutBucketeer
Date: 11 Oct 05 - 03:43 PM

You guys are welcome :-)

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Subject: RE: Review: GutBucket Jug Band's Engruntlement (Aus)
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 12 Oct 05 - 03:25 PM

Great review.

I think I may junk my tubs.


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