JimJim & the FatBoys,
Bottle Up & Go
(Owl Mountain, 2001)

Owl Mountain Music is celebrating its tenth anniversary with this debut release from JimJim & the FatBoys. It was recorded in Colorado and in it they've got a mixed bag of tricks. The group includes Jim Babcock, Jim Pierce, Steve Eulberg and Jeff Lilley. These boys like their music, and they like their instruments. I never heard of so many ways to make a dulcimer.

For a change, they use acoustic instruments as well as wired. They also make their own instruments. Besides Jeff building a dulcimer, the liner notes describe a box set that Jim Babcock made out of a meat-packing box. They were looking for sound that wouldn't overpower the unamplified acoustic instruments. They work with a selection of dulcimers, guitar, electric bass and mandolin.

There are no limits to the music they present on this CD, all of it great music. I thought it full of imagination and inspiration, much of it straight from life experiences. The whole thing feels like: "Let's sit on the back porch boys, and sing about what happened yesterday, and if anybody knows a good song, lets do that, too." But they're seriously good musicians and each cut is well crafted.

I can't compare it to anything else I've heard in a long time. I checked out their lyrics on the website before I listened to several of the songs. Some of the lyrics without the music can look pretty dull, but add the right notes and there's something worth listening to. The music in the selections they play is not simple. They choose to play folk music in so many ways: classic Spanish guitar tunes, traditional English tunes, a pop tune, Delta blues sounds and a tinge of gospel.

Their voices are rough and folksy and take a bit of getting used to, but it's part of the real sound. They share a lot of fun and frustrations in their original pieces which fit somewhere in the blues tradition.

Their music is really good, and I'd really like to hear them live. Here I go trying to compare them again. They're like the Irish Rovers, but without the Irish -- true folk music with great musicianship. Give it a whirl if you've got a yen for a breath of fresh mountain air mixed in with beer and wives and camping stories, and hope.

[ by Virginia MacIsaac ]
Rambles: 30 December 2001

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