Blind Corn Liquor Pickers,
Myths & Routines
(independent, 2012)

On their previous two albums (which I reviewed here on 28 January 2006 and 11 October 2008), the Blind Corn Liquor Pickers, formed in Lexington, Ky., performed on acoustic instruments and set their often eccentric songs to bluegrass arrangements. They weren't exactly a bluegrass band; when they took up bluegrass themes, the songs turned them on their heads. Owing more to the Holy Modal Rounders than to the Bluegrass Boys, the BCLP created a universe of their own, making songs out of the most unlikely subjects (e.g., "Europe on $15 a Day," "Intelligent Design").

Myths & Routines doesn't entirely jettison bluegrass elements, but it's a country-rock -- and sometimes an unhyphenated rock -- album with percussion and electric guitars pushing banjos and mandolins to the sidelines. Lead vocalist Beth Walker is neither a bluegrass nor a country singer; her style is indebted to r&b. Banjo player Travis Young writes or co-writes most of the material, with a usually left-of-center sensibility that either resists taking the narrative where you expect it to go or drives it into wild excess, nowhere so much as in the bizarre and hilarious "The Welder" with its mad Greek chorus.

Some of the songs are conventional enough, at least in theme if not necessarily in manner of expression. Even if bound for a familiar location, BCLP can be counted upon to take the crooked road to getting there. Myths delivers many of the pleasures and surprises of their earlier records.

Of course, the band has the right to go where it will musically. Still, speaking only for myself, I do miss the shotgun wedding of downhome bluegrass sounds to cosmically cockeyed sentiments.

music review by
Jerome Clark

5 January 2013

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