july 2008

The Loose Acoustic Trio
Big Book Records

The Loose Acoustic Trio—Ken Cooper (whose multiple stringed instruments include a “bedpandolin,” a mandolin fashioned from a metal bedpan), Richie Lawrence (accordion, vocals and a co-founder of Big Book Records) and bassist Steve O’Neill—-derives so much enjoyment from its blend of Cajun, folk, jug band and old-timey music that a listener could be forgiven for feeling blindsided by Sorrow Be Gone’s topicality. You can hear audiences everywhere getting off on hearing Pete Townshend’s “Pinball Wizard” set to a bouncy country rhythm and sung to the tune of “The Wabash Cannonball,” and square dancers can allemande left all night to the frenzied pace of the fiddle-fired (courtesy Joe Craven) “Soup On a Bun,” which is in fact a celebration of the superior comestible known as pizza. There’s even a guest jug artist, Robert Armstrong, sitting in on “Soup On a Bun,” an entirely appropriate addition given that the LAT embraces and advances the high spirited ethos of jug band music. Therein lies the rub, for the LAT often gets down to more serious matters without making dramatic departures from its signature style. The rolling, Cajun flavored “Johnny Appleseed,” bolstered by the steady blurting of Keith Cary’s tuba, honors the (literally) fruitful pursuits of the titular subject; the sweet, nostalgic country ballad, “We All Need More Kindness,” is an appeal for greater sensitivity to others’ needs, with a subdued banjo-accordion-trombone (the latter by Dwight Howard) soundscape adding a gospel-rooted Salvation Army band feel to the track; the strutting title song directly questions the craziness the current Administration has put the world through but nonetheless suggests a positive prognosis for the future. The fellows don’t rub any miseries in their listeners’ faces, though, but rather devote most of their energies to examining the heart and enriching the soul. A bright-eyed, banjo-driven toe-tapper, “You Are the One,” could not be a sweeter declaration of love and commitment, whereas the shambling country blues of “Me and You,” featuring an earthy vocal from Rita Hosking, celebrates a couple’s joy in each other’s company in pursuit of simple pleasures, “just as long as it’s me and you.” And in a most interesting sign-off, the Trio appropriates the melody of The Beatles’ instrumental “Flying” (from the Magical Mystery Tour soundtrack), adds spacey lyrics about the world as imagined by a “flying fish from the luscious sea,” and gives its densely textured ambiance an added dollop of otherworldiness by way of Robert Armstrong’s eerie, keening saw hovering aloft. In an album otherwise rooted in the corporeal world, “Flying” soars into the realm of the metaphysical. Sorrow be gone, indeed, supplanted by the peace that passes all understanding, or something like it. Whatever it is, it’s a good place to be, and hats off to the Loose Acoustic Trio for taking us there.—David McGee

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (www.johnmendelsohn.com)
Website Design: Kieran McGee (www.kieranmcgee.com)
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY; www.flickr.com/audreyharrod), Alicia Zappier (New York)
E-mail: thebluegrassspecial@gmail.com
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024