CD Review: Lawnball
Those Darn Accordions
total time: 41:45
review date: May 2005
Tracks 1-3; 5-7; 9-11 by Paul Rogers
Track 4 Edgar Holland Winter
Track 8 Robert Plant (Led Zepplin)
Paul Rogers Accordion, vocals, piano, acoustic guitar
Suzanne Garramone Accordion, vocals
Susie Davis Accordion, vocals, vocal arrangements
Carri Abrahms Accordion, vocals
Bill Schwartz Drums, percussion, vocals
Lewis Wallace Electric bass
Adam Gabriel Dobro, banjo
Joel Jaffe Percussion
Nik Phelps Trumpet
Jim Rothermel Clarinet
label: Globe Records
Review by: Robert Stead
Let's begin with synchronicity and our small world. A few days ago, on a Friday afternoon I had a few minutes to kill so I decided to search Apple's I-Tunes for accordion pieces. Apparently not many accordionists use I-Tunes to market their work since my searches on composer and/or album returned very few titles with accordions. However, my search did reveal a group that uses accordions--Those Darn Accordions. I listened for the alloted 30 seconds to a few of their pieces and decided to look into this group later. Now for the synchronicity. Three days after my discovery of 'Those Darn Accordions' Paul Rogers, the creative force behind the group, dropped a note into The Classical Free-Reed, Inc comment box asking if we would be interested in reviewing their album Lawnball. Of this I had no doubt. What I had heard on I-Tunes convinced me that this group was zany. And I love zany! Now for the small world. During our short correspondence, Paul and I realized that we grew up in the same city, Dearborn, MI and lived about a mile away from each other during the '60's. In age we are only 2 years apart. So, here we have a fellow Dee-troiter.
First--the make up of this group. Most of the members play accordion. In fact, on another album they have a piece called "We're an Accordion Band" --a rework of the '60's anthem "We're an American Band". You won't find a lead guitar and rhythm guitar here but rather a lead accordion and rhythm accordions. If indeed it was Rock that spelled the death of the accordion during the '60's, this group proves that the accordion can rock on.
As far as the selections go, Paul Rogers proves that he can work in several modes. In fact this album has about as many styles as my Excelsior 980 free bass accordion has registers. Lawnball has a Detroit rock edge and a solid groove provided by the bass and drums. And who would have thought to write a song about a lawnball--those garden variety ornaments that present the world "in a warped and wonderful way". Perhaps Frank Zappa. In fact there is a lot in this album that makes me think of Zappa. Frank gave us the dental floss tycoon from Montana. Rogers gives us Dr. Luv, "the master of amore", the love specialist who rides the radio waves of Utah. This piece is in the style of rap (accordions in rap!!) and the play between the rap of Dr Luv and the woman caller of the night is wonderful. Dr Luv wraps it up by consoling his audience:
Now, I'll be back on the air tomorrowLive It Up is a cajun-eque piece that places us "down by the barn with a bucket of paint". So you say you would like something along the lines of a polka. Then There's Another Dumbass On The Mountain is for you. You can dance the polka and laugh at a business guy who has no business climbing Mt Everest. How about dixie land? Two notes into Dancing With A Dead Man and you're in New Orleans. The wail of the clarinet (and a plaintive trumpet) supported by accordion, bass, and drums create a dank Big Easy gambling hall as Paul sings "music, rhyme and gambling, they'll be the death of me". While 'Dr Luv' calls to mind Frank Zappa, 'Dancing With A Dead Man' could have come from the heart of Leon Russell. And while we're in New Orleans, Hungover In Clover has the kind of groove that I find in Dr John although the lyrics of the song would place us somewhere more like California.
To navigate this sea of sorrow
If I brought you even just a ray of light
Then the doctor's done his job tonight
How about country-western? Rice For One has a lonely guy crying over his rice in a Chinese restaurant. You can't get more country than that. My Friend Jim mines the folk vein as does the last piece Old Slow Guy--a very touching folk song about reaching the end of life when "there's rust in the bucket and moss on the sill".
Is there anything classical on this album? After all, we are "The Classical Free-Reed, Inc". Well, indeed there is. 'Those Darn Accordions' present two classic rock pieces a la accordion: Edgar Winter's Frankenstein, and Led Zepplin's Whole Lotta Love/Black Dog. This truly is zany.
I have lived my whole life in Detroit. Detroit is a place where cultures clash, genres mix and new things spring to life. I'm not surprised that someone from Detroit produced an album that blends so many styles: polka, rap, cajun, dixie land, classic rock, country western, and folk with ingenuity and humor.
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