Friday, February 27, 2015

The SpYder Stompers. CannonBall.

The SpYder Stompers.  CannonBall.

If you’re looking for a heaping bowl of old-time string band music and acoustic blues, you can stop, because the Spyder Stompers are serving just that in this CD released back in 2013.  The team of DiAlesandro, Richards, and DeForest, who have been playing together for a long time, are stalwarts at the Barking Spider Tavern, near University Circle in Cleveland.  This album brings together nearly two dozen songs, most old enough to be in the public domain, with a couple of original from Richards and Mark Freeman just to show that they can write stuff too.

In some ways the Stompers remind me of Koerner, Ray, & Glover, the blues revival trio from the 1960s, but they were a bit more intense in their delivery, and more focused on blues to the exclusion of other styles of the period.  The Stompers are more versatile, and I think, better musicians.  These guys have taken songs from Blind Willie McTell, Mance Lipscomb, and Big Bill Broonzy, but also Riley Puckett, Jimmie Rodgers, the New Lost City Ramblers, and others, a veritable cross-section of Americana originating in the pre-war period.  They mix it up nicely, with slow blues, fast shuffles, string band tunes alternating, and with fewer than half the songs clocking in at more than three minutes, nothing sticks around too long except as earworms later in the day.  

The musicianship is stellar, as one might expect from guys who teach other folks how to play.  Especially noteworthy is the guitar work displayed by DiAlesandro on tunes such as “Dallas Rag.”  I’m not sure who is playing on “It Won’t Be Long Now” and “Flopped Ear Mule,” but they are also spectacular.  The harmonic work is delightful, and the vocals sound right.  I could play the instrumental “Buck Dancers Choice” ten times without tiring of it.

Recently, the group has added another member, Sugar Pie Das, who plays ukulele and washboard.  They’ll be playing at several places around the area in the coming months, including the Barking Spider on the first Thursday of the month.  Catch them when you can.  

Personnel:  Kevin Richards (guitars, mandolin, vocals), Jack DiAlesandro (guitars, harmonica, vocals), Ray DeForest (upright bass, vocals), with special guests, Rockin’ Robin Montgomery (piano, vocals), Mark Freeman (washboard, support), Joe Hunter (harmonica).
Tracks:  Cannonball Blues, Baby It Must Be Love, Ticket Agent Blues, Raggin’ with Ray, Handy’s Florida Blues, Wee Midnight Hours, Nashville Blues, Ragged but Right, Ninety Nine Year Blues, Ain’t Nobodies Business, Going Down Slow, Dallas Rag, When I Get the Mississippi Blues, Going Down to Georgia on a Horn, Buck Dancers Choice, I Got Mine, Flopped Ear Mule, It Won’t Be Long Now, Memphis My Home Town, Carroll County Blues, Papa Wants a Cookie, Mean Mistreater Mama, Shuffle Rag.

Jeff Wanser

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