“Like a dead dog on the highway…” sang an unmistakeably German voice. It was the kind of lisping German accent that my American ears associate with camp villains in bad movies. Then in came the banjo.
“Like a dead dog, I’m hanging around,” the German voice continued singing over the quaint banjo melody. “Won’t you stop and pick me up? Dig me a deep hole in the ground.”
I was, to put it kindly, perplexed. What in the world was this? In my head, my conditioned American thoughts, banjo and heavy German accents did not belong together. But I kept listening, fascinated, compelled to find out what this was all about. And as unprepared as I was for the initial track, I was yet again thrown off balance by what the second track brought.
Oh yes, there was definitely something worth investigating here. By the end of the album, I was smitten.
Dead Dog on a Highway is the second long player from the Dad Horse Experience, which consists mostly of a man who goes by the name Dad Horse Ottn. He sings while accompanying himself on banjo, keeping the rhythm on bass pedals and throwing in some occasional kazoo1, playing what he has dubbed keller (German for “cellar”) gospel. Keller gospel draws from an amazing range of influences from the simple and perfect country of Hank Williams, the gathered folk of the Carter Family and the outsider gospel of Washington Phillips to punk to polka. And it’s all filtered through one possibly deranged, definitely unique man who apparently didn’t begin playing music until he was 40.
Dead Dog on a Highway is a wunderkammer of an album that contains more treasures and obscure delights than I have the time and space to limn here. You’ll certainly find entertainment here and things to make you smile. You might also find a moment or two of fright. And perhaps, if you’re paying enough attention, you’ll find a song, a moment, that speaks directly to you.
You can get a download of the absolutely-worth-the-price-of-your-email-address “Tella Me, Lord” here at the Dad Horse website.
1Kazoo is making a serious comeback, people. The Carolina Chocolate Drops and Daniel Knox have also made liberal use of the humble instrument.