CD Review - Hobo Nickel
Rambling Jug Stompers
By Glenn Weiser
Metroland, November 4
, 2010

Hobo Nickel
Ramblin’ Jug Stompers
The most famous jug band tune ever was the Rooftop Singers’ 1963 #1 hit “Walk Right In,” a remake of a 1920s song by the Memphis group Gus Cannon’s Jug Stompers. The lyrics, particularly the line “Daddy let you mind roll on,” allude to an opium den, perhaps the Chinese establishment that stood near the corner of Second and Beale around that time. Throughout the10 tracks of Ramblin’ Jug Stompers latest CD, “Hobo Nickel,” the groove is so relaxing that you feel like you feel like an intoxicated vagrant lying on his hip in that Memphis hop joint watching the smoke curl up from the long stemmed pipe the Chinaman hands him every time he gives him a 5-cent piece.

 Jug band music was never about flashy instrumental work, and the Stompers – local music deites Greg Haymes, aka Wild Bill on washboard and harmonica, Paul “Bowtie” Johnson on banjo, Mike Eck on mandolin and jug, and Steve Clyde on guitar- stay true to that tradition. The disc’s strong suit -that good-time, loosey-goosey feel kicks in with the opening cut, Uncle Dave Macon’s “Morning Blues,” when the kazoo and the harmonica banter among themselves in between the verses as the washboard, mandolin, banjo, and guitar lazily float the rhythm downstream.

The only departure from the jug band/roots repertoire, Billy Joe Royal’s 1965 pop hit “Down in the Boondocks,” comes next. The banjo picks a calypso grove, and the age-old theme of love versus class distinction incarnates anew.

On they roll until the final track, The Delmore Brothers “Freight Train Boogie,” where Clyde in is good voice and Haymes’ harp caterwauls the train whistle imitations that are obligatory in any railroad song. Just when you think the record is over, they surprise you with an ragtimey instrumental coda of kazoo-driven mayhem.

Hobo Nickel is a euphoric offering from some of Albany’s most venerable musical veterans.

—Glenn Weiser

Index of Metroland Articles by Glenn Weiser    ©2010 by Glenn Weiser. All rights reserved.  


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