RAT TRAPPER – TUB LIFE
2011 – Self Released
An incredible instrumental prowess is displayed by every band member on this ‘good time, ramshackle (in the nicest possible way!)’ album. The vocals provided by various members are not always of the highest quality but do fit the music, and anyway who wants to hear Alan Jackson singing this music, always assuming he would be allowed to do so by the Nashville money men! The vocals are never bad, just have a raw untutored feel which when analysed is absolutely essential to this melange of folksy jug band (without jug!), hillbilly hoedown and even at times bluesy music. It sounds like they were having a great time making the album and most of this pleasure is easily passed on to the listener on this quite addictive album!
The band is made up of Sam ‘Ole Thundergut’ Davidson on wash tub bass and vocals. His playing of this electrified wash tub really is something to behold, adding real personality to this much maligned instrument! Carter ‘Cartrouble’ Parks adds his vocals as well as some tremendous mastery of the piano, at times taking the music into ragtime! Dennis ‘Abe’ Abramson is their tremendous banjo player and also contributes vocals whilst last but far from least is Chris ‘Needs a Trapper name’ Koch adding guitar and vocals. As already stated there is a ramshackleness, or even at times an undisciplined feel that can only be attained by musicians who have total confidence in their own and other band members skill, imbuing the whole album with a huge amount of character and originality.
The only Traditional song is album opener Black Dog with the vocals and instrumental prowess of each member being shown to good affect. Slide Another Down Here is an excellent drinking song that I can imagine would go down well played in a bar and is one of two Parks/Davidson co-writes, the other being the tremendous It’s A Shame, a really good ballad with Steve Earlish vocals proving they can have their serious moments, albeit on this album, very few of them! Wes Isbell’s Snowy Range Death Song is a slightly sinister sounding song with the raw vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, banjo, organ and of course the washtub bass enhancing the eeriness. Of course, on this entertaining album, despite the more serious moments, you are never far from a little lightness, but at least those more serious moments do show that this band have far more about them than just being light and throwaway. There are several other songs that approach ballad status as well as their usual good time drinking songs, giving good variety and ensuring there is never a dull moment! It’s easy to imagine much of this music being played in the mountains and valleys of the Appalachians many decades ago despite the fact that all four band members are Wyoming natives!
The good time ramshackleness does hold the album back a little but this tremendously talented and original foursome have more than enough about them to make me impatient for their next recording. This is their first album and no matter how much talent there is, a certain amount of experimentation with what works best on recordings and what works live is necessary. Whilst not always quite getting that right, their strong points do augur well for the future. A highly entertaining and skilfully played first effort!