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I Make a Wish for a Potato

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Album Review

Although the label was named for them, Rounder Records does not contain a complete repository of the works of the Holy Modal Rounders. In fact, only the group's 1975 album, Alleged in Their Own Time, and its 1999 reunion disc, Too Much Fun!, were released on Rounder. But due to their marginal commercial appeal and their own inclinations, the Rounders have been inherently unstable as a band through the years, frequently splitting into different configurations, such that members have participated in several other recordings of a like sensibility, including Michael Hurley's Have Moicy, Long Journey, and Snockgrass and Jeffrey Frederich's Spiders in the Moonlight. The band's two founding members, Peter Stampfel and Steve Weber, reunited as Stampfel & Weber for Rounder's Going Nowhere Fast album in 1981, and Stampfel's post-Rounders band the Bottlecaps made Peter Stampfel and the Bottlecaps for the label. All of these albums are drawn upon for this compilation, which therefore presents a comprehensive look at the varied styles and assorted craziness of Rounders music from the '70s, '80s, and '90s. There is, first of all, the original band, dominated by Stampfel and Weber, who draw on traditional folk and old-timey country, but to strange effect. They capture the semi-professional style of '20s hillbilly bands, but they append their own perspective. Followers like Hurley and Frederichs pick up on that in their slightly better organized and more professionally sung material. And Stampfel's Bottlecaps, while not quite slick, sound like it in this context, whether they're sending up disco in "Impossible Groove" or Jimmy Buffett-style island music in "Everything Must Go." This is not a definitive compilation of the Holy Modal Rounders and their offspring, but it may be as close as anyone is ever going to come, and it gives a good sense of their fractured worldview.


Formed: 1963 in New York, NY

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

The Holy Modal Rounders were almost the very definition of a cult act. This isn't a case of a group that would be described by such clichés as "if only they got more exposure, they would certainly reach a much wider audience." Their audience was small because their music was too strange, idiosyncratic, and at times downright dissonant for mainstream listeners to abide. What makes the Rounders unusual in this regard is that they owed primary allegiance to the world of acoustic folk -- not one that...
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I Make a Wish for a Potato, The Holy Modal Rounders
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