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The Dust Bowl Cavaliers - Volume 2: Flowers and Gasoline Print E-mail
Friday, 01 February 2008
ImageThere is something delightfully unlikely about the Dustbowl Cavaliers. Let’s face it, there aren’t a whole lot of homegrown L.A. bluegrass bands to begin with, but the Cavaliers have a totally authentic sound, whether they’re playing straight-up traditional old folk tunes, original compositions or even you-have-to-hear-it-to-believe-it covers of songs from other genres.

The musical dexterity, speed and skill of the Cavaliers – bassist/vocalist Matt Stephen Young, mandolin/harmonica/vocalist Ryan Raddatz, guitarist/fiddler/vocalist Corey Rouse, banjo player John Rosen and snare drummer Dave Keeton (with additional drums supplied by Ken Beck) – is truly something to hear. This is the kind of music where the performers are so good, and so clearly having a blast with what they’re doing, that the mood is infectious.

Interestingly, for the most part, the originals are more fun than the folk covers, and manage to sound pretty much as authentic. The trad tracks include a Celtic-flavored, fiddle-and-mandolin-driven “Old Joe Clark,” “Hot Corn, Cold Corn,” Darlin’ Corey,” a super-swift tempo “Crawdad,” a very funny “Slew Foot” (about a man who may be masquerading as a bear), “Banks of the Ohio” (about as upbeat as a murder ballad is going to get), “Buffalo Gals” and an exuberant “Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms.”
As for the originals, the opening track, “DBC Theme,” written by Young, introduces all the band members at already-airborne velocity, with each instrument racing in time with its fellows. Young’s “What Is a Man?” has country gospel aspects side by side with a traveling ballad, powered by strong vocal harmonies and a firm drum line.

Flowers and Gasoline takes its title from “Got Me a Woman,” an original written by guitarist McCardle, which plays with rhymes as it celebrates the singer’s contradictory ladylove. The song showcases the individual voices of the band members as they chime in one at a time on the choral “Oh!,” and lets bass, banjo, mandolin and guitar all make expressive, distinctive contributions.

“Lay You Down,” another original by Young and Raddatz, is a highlight, an ecstatic romance that speaks of both immediate desire and enduring love, with Raddatz’s mandolin in the shimmering forefront.

Finally, there’s a cover that, even if you know what’s coming, surprises every time. Ever hear a bluegrass version of the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated”? Didn’t think so. This is just a hoot. The intro starts out briskly but not really indicating what’s going to happen until the lyrics kick in, voices insistently twangy and strings plucked with wild yet accurate fervor behind the expected strumming and drumming.

Sound quality is clean, clear and realistic, with neither audible special effects nor flaws imposing themselves between music and listener. (The album notes state that Flowers and Gasoline was recorded at the Matt Cave, which may be a reference to Young’s domain.) You can hear every string pick and fret hit, which is saying something, given the abundance of flying fingers in these performances.

Even if bluegrass isn’t normally your genre of choice, there’s such joy and fine musicianship on Dustbowl Cavaliers’ Volume Two: Flowers and Gasoline that it’s borderline irresistible. “You’ll have a good time” the DBC Theme promises, and dang it, so you will.

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