Some songs come and go – sweet pleasures, but fleeting ones.
Others, they linger, wearing a groove in heart and brain that runs down the intersection of comforting and challenging.
These are some of those songs.
Off My Mind, Ryan Ross: It’s the plucked string at the beginning, I think. The insistent whang whang whang that reaches out to hook your attention just before the other guitars muscle in, rumbling and grumbling and trying to start a fight. And then about half-way through they settle down and start hammering out a quasi-hypnotic rhythm. I both do and do not want to know what the words are supposed to be; I’m curious, but also suspect context might ruin it.
If You’re in New York, The Grahams: I have more to say about Riverman’s Daughter, their most recent (and most amazing) record, but this is one of the songs I have been listening to obsessively. I have danced to this on subway platforms from Harlem to Brooklyn, and hummed along everywhere from the center of a swirl of autumn leaves on Central Park West to a rapidly thickening blanket of snow on 1st … Continue reading
Rhubarb Whiskey is Emchy (accordion, vocals), Boylamayka Sazerac (guitar, mandolin, upright bass, vocals) and Sizzle La Fey (violin, mandolin, banjo, piano), and they’re back and better than ever with their second record, Same Sad End.
There are, well, not murder ballads, exactly; maybe a murder waltz? Murder two-step? Songs which could be used to score a romantic montage for Bonnie and Clyde?
Grave Digger by Rhubarb Whiskey
Dreamy sad wandering songs:
My Rifle, My Pony, and Me by Rhubarb Whiskey
And this one, which haunts me. I keep listening to it hoping the story will change and Ella will get a happy ending and she never does.
Ella by Rhubarb Whiskey
Should you need a revivifying drink after that, the band does have a signature cocktail!
Photo by Flip Cassidy
Rhubarb Whiskey are Boylamayka Sazerac (Oakland Wine Drinkers Union, Subincision; vocals, guitar, upright bass, mandolin, metal chain, railroad spike on accordion case) Emchy (Vagabondage, Oakland Wine Drinkers Union; vocal, accordion, clapping, musical saw mallet on spice jar) and Sizzle La Fey (The Sweet Trade; fiddle, mandolin, whiskey bottle). They are from San Francisco, and Cautionary Tales is their first full length release.
It is aptly named, as it is jammed full of blood- and whiskey-soaked tales, such as Banks of the Ohio and Birch Bones, both of which are far too bouncy to be called murder ballads. Murder gavottes, maybe, or murder hooligan’s jigs.1
There’s also Bears in the Lot, which is an extremely entertaining meditation on the perils of losing bets and drinking in Alaska, and Whiskey Neat which is mainly about the joys of drinking whiskey, pretty girls and narrowly avoided bar fights. But my favorite song, the one I have been listening to somewhat, er, obsessively, is We All Come to the Same … Continue reading