THE BASINBILLIES – WHISKEY ON A WORK NIGHT
2012 – Self Released
The Basinbillies hail from Portland, Oregon and seem to have set their own style within the confines of old
time string band music, but with an indefinable English quirkiness to much of the vocals. I don’t know what it is, but it’s almost as if an English folk band suddenly found the instruments and the ability to play this quite authentic old
time rooted music. There is an almost home made quality to much of the music that actually smacks of the punk ethos, but with far more ability and originality than all but the very best punk bands! I imagine they are very much a group that has that same ‘take us as we are, or not at all’ attitude, made more likely because
of this unusual blend of old timey, country, bluegrass and folk, with the already mentioned punk attitude, as if they have come to this stew quite naturally. There is an edgy, at times anthemic quality to the vocals, as if they are making the best of every song, just in case it’s their last!
The band have only been going for a couple of years but are already hugely popular in the Pacific north west with some apparently incendiary live shows, not difficult to imagine when you listen to this raw rootsy album. They are a four piece who have been friends for a long time, and are Corey Christensen on guitar, mandolin, harmonica and vocals. Andrew Morton, guitar and vocals, Steve Hathaway plays banjo and vocals with Harris McClellan on homemade standup washtub bass and vocals. All songs are band originals with the exception of a rewrite of Rage Against The Machines Sleep now in the Fire, which probably says a lot about band attitude, if not their excellent music. Some of their songs do have a political orientation but this is never overdone and many of the
tales seem to be oriented towards life at the lower end of the financial scale. At times they have the feel of several British punky folk rock bands whose names I can’t quite dredge up from my foggy memory, but there is a considerable amount of originality to their music with an often old timey hillbilly feel as well as a definite 21st century attitude.
Album opener Pick it anyhow gets things off to an atmospheric tale with it’s driving banjo on a tale that seems to tell about the benefits and disadvantages of being an unattached musician, followed by some really speedy picking on the almost old timey hoe down of Workin’ for the Camp. Tobacco Row has a heavy bass thump and banjo driving the song along on a protest tale of poverty that kicks against the money men. It has a really good, quirky arrangement and well thought out lyrics that work really well making it a difficult to surpass protest and an excellent song in it’s own right. Tellin’ Tales includes some brilliant four part harmonies on a banjo driven hillbilly tale that again has a modern ‘old timey feel,’ that protests against being arrested for having a good time, on which the whole band seems to have a verse of lead vocals each and fairly obviously is not without humour! Death and Flowers again has some nice guitar and banjo playing on a tale that has
a real high lonesome feel and is a slow moody ballad about a lost love that he’s missing and just can’t seem to get over. A tremendous song, as is Mud flaps with it’s excellent banjo, guitar and mandolin blend on a story that seems to relate a tale that ultimately smacks of homesickness.
Every song on this excellent album is well worth listening to. Some are stronger than others but that is only because the best songs are exceptional. If you like a modern take on ‘old time hillbilly’ music with a strong punk element I can pretty well guarantee you will love this enjoyable debut from a highly promising band.