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Album Review

Austin's all-acoustic ensemble covers a lot of ground on this typically eclectic outing. Blues, folk, jazz, rockabilly, klezmer, new wave, and even punk go through the Asylum Street Spankers' retro wringer, and all emerge in the band's typically swinging, if slightly gimmicky, fashion. The Beastie Boys' "Paul Revere" is transformed into an authentic rockabilly breakdown, somewhat like a combination of Manhattan Transfer and Sun-era Elvis. Black Flag's "TV Party" goes the hoedown route and now sounds like something the cast from Hee Haw recorded, complete with snappy TV jokes and theme songs from Bonanza, The Flintstones, and Jeopardy. Not as giggly but far better is a radically reworked version of the blues chestnut "Got My Mojo Workin'" sung as a slinky, finger-popping torch song by group co-founding member Christina Marrs. The swinging Dixieland side of the group is well represented by Sophie Tucker's "Some of These Days," a straight version enhanced by banjo, fiddle, and clarinet. A no-frills cover of the B-52's' "Dance This Mess Around" might be fun for those who don't know the original, but the Spankers' version doesn't noticeably improve or even alter the original and, worse, interrupts the flow of the album. The suggestive "Tight Like That," made popular by Tampa Red, gets the lyrics to Jim Carroll's "People Who Died" grafted onto the chorus, successfully combining two especially disparate genres in a very funny and unexpected — at least once — juxtaposition. Bessie Smith's salacious "Sugar in My Bowl," Ivory Joe Hunter's "Since I Met You Baby," and the pop standard "Shine on Harvest Moon" are all relatively unaltered, although the Spankers' winking humor is unmistakable. Mercurial is frisky, good-natured fun and a fine way to break into the band's lively retro sound and entertaining, self-deprecating but reverent Americana approach.

Biography

Formed: 1995 in Austin, TX

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '90s, '00s

The Asylum Street Spankers, from Austin, TX, are a unique band led by vocalist/washboard player/poet Wammo and vocalist Christina Marrs. They're finding a growing cult following for their unique brand of acoustic blues and early jazz. While much of their material is blues from the 1920s and '30s, the Asylum Street Spankers also perform original songs in their live shows and on their debut album for Watermelon Records, Spanks for the Memories. The band's live shows are performed without amplifiers...
Full Bio
Mercurial, Asylum Street Spankers
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