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CD REVIEW: Black Jake and The Carnies - Black Jake and The Carnies
By Don Sechelski - 01/25/2009 - 09:37 PM EST

Artist: Band: Black Jake and The Carnies
Album: Black Jake and The Carnies
Genre: Punk Bluegrass
Technical Grade: 8/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 8/10
Commercial Value: 4/10
Overall Talent Level: 8/10
Songwriting Skills: 8/10
Performance Skill: 8/10
Best Songs: Paper Outlaw, Crazy Mccready's, Hunter's Moon, Jasper Watkins
CD Review:

Black Jake and The Carnies is not everyone's cup of tea. This punk hillbilly band assumes the persona of backwoods, hard core misogynists bent on murder and destruction as they slam their way through bluegrass tinged tales of crime and cruelty. Black Jake's vocal is appropriately grinding and his banjo is relentless. Gus plays fiddle, Zachary Pollock plays mandolin, and D.P. Weatherwax strums guitar. Kingpin Billy Lalonde joins in on drums and vocals while Matt B. Young and Joe Cooter play washboard and bass respectively. Caleb Lee Johnson fills in where-ever necessary and Joe Zettelmaier and Timothy Monger blend in with harmonies and accordion.

It's all good fun, of course, as the band churns through songs about eccentric murderers and wicked children. These guys will never be guests on the Grand Ole Opry but they are entertaining nevertheless.  Crazy McCready's is one of my favorites on the CD. Gus's fiddle carries the day as Black Jake sings of the family from hell. Hunter's Moon begins with a wildly discordant banjo roll before launching into a song about an encounter with a strange werewolf who steals brides on their wedding night. Whenever a serial killer is discovered, the neighbors always say how quiet and polite he was. That's the story of Jasper Watkins. Black Jake sings, "You apologized like a gentleman, before you did them folks in, Your clothes were a glistening steaming red, You left behind a trail of the dyin' and the dead."  A Happy Easter To Ya is about a feud that gets out of hand as the feuding fathers arm their children. "All their little bodies marked the property line."

Black Jake and The Carnies sing of murder and bloody corpses but somehow they make it all entertaining and interesting. They race through bluegrass flavored songs as if they have a jug of moonshine in one hand and a bottle of amphetamines in the other. If you're a bluegrass purist or a fan of Peter, Paul, and Mary folk music, you'll probably hate Black Jake and The Carnies but I don't think they care. They are having too much fun. If you like punk music and you like bluegrass and you have an open mind, Black Jake and The Carnies will make you smile.

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