The Clumsy Lovers,
After the Flood
(Nettwerk, 2004)

It is often easy to ignore the close connection between Irish music and its direct descendent, bluegrass. The Clumsy Lovers make that impossible on After the Flood.

The band is Jason Homey (banjo, mandolin, guitar), Chris Jonat (bass guitar, backing vocals, mandolin), Andrea Lewis (violin, viola, backing vocals) and Trevor Rogers (guitar, lead and backing vocals, harmonica), with Randall Stoll (drums), Amy Stephen and Shannon Saunders (accordion) and Carolyn Arends and Rocco Vaugeouts (backing vocals).

The traditional tunes are arranged by the band with heavy emphasis on fiddle and banjo, and Lewis and Homey are brilliant in their deft handling of the strings. Despite the cross-the-lines traditional sound of their music, all of the songs on this album are originals in a folk-pop-gospel vein. Jonat is the band's primary songwriter; Rogers imbues the songs with a warm, rough-edged, rock-tinged vocal style.

You know you're in for a treat when the very first track on an album is as solidly exciting as "Better Me." Can it get any better? Yes.

A highlight of the whole endeavor is a themed triad smack in the middle of the album. "Amen" builds in energy (and tragedy) as a farmer begs his Lord for rain to end a drought. Even as plot climaxes, the instrumental background remains fun and lively, driving the story to its conclusion. "After the Flood" is more reflective and easygoing, capping off the process with a banjo breakdown in the traditional "Waterbound." This is good stuff and sets a high musical and lyrical standard.

"Mercy" is a delightfully ambling ode to flirtation. "Spare in the Trunk" is a simple, bemusing love song that stands out for its fun lyrics and nonstandard rhythms. Hell, there's not a single throwaway among the album's 15+1 tracks. (The bonus track is a short fiddle blast that deserves more!)

This Vancouver band may be lousy in the bedroom (perhaps they chose the name to drive away the inevitable salivating groupies who stalk any band with talent!) but they're gifted in the studio. If you haven't spent some quality time with these Clumsy Lovers, you owe it to yourself to invite them into your home as quickly as possible.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 28 August 2004

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