THE CURST SONS – THE SNAKE AND THE MONEY JAR
2012 – Self Released
Having known the Curst Sons since their early days as a band and having seen them play live more times than is healthy it is such a relief when a new album by them arrives and is found to be excellent! So it is with this new offering from a band that sits easily under the umbrella ‘Hillbilly Blues,’ for that is exactly what they play and all done in their own inimitable, highly original style. And yet, there are a few subtle changes to that style on this album, almost as if they got fed up with the
mountains and went down to the swamps of the everglades where they experimented a little with the local music but without ever losing sight of where their ‘mountain’roots are!
Their style is still easily recognizable, simply because there is no one I have ever heard that plays music quite like them, but there is a definite swampy sound to much of the guitar work
and there are even strings on one song, something I never thought I’d hear on a Curst Sons album. I can’t see the three of them being able to replicate a string section at one of their gigs, (although I wouldn’t put it past them to try!) but it does work, despite the initial shock! When playing live they are usually a trio, although for special occasions and for recording sessions they add drummer
Dickie Jayston and on double bass, Phil Jones of the excellent Hatful of Rain, who have recently released their terrific first album. So it is with this recording, with the aforementioned pair added to the core trio of Willi Kerr on most lead vocals, washboard, lyrics and the mighty rhythm pole! Dave Simner is the man that holds things together with his tremendous banjo and lead guitar playing as well as backing vocals whilst Tim Dunkerley handles backing and sometimes lead vocals and has been known to experiment with slide guitar, mandolin and spoons!
As usual all fourteen of the excellent songs on this, arguably best ever, recording are Curst originals, with Willi in the main being responsible for the lyrics, whilst Tim and Dave sort out
the music. The instrumentation blend and the playing are, as always, perfect for the occasion and the subjects covered by Willi’s lyrics range from dark murder ballads, to tales of a dissolute life, to love songs, tales of bad luck and even fear of the devil, often with a slight sense of self deprecation and an
insinuation that despite at times being treated poorly by life, any bitterness is suppressed and life just got on with! A pretty good ethos when you think about it, yet despite all that darkness there is frequently an underlying note of humour that brings lightness to the proceedings.
The album kicks off with the lively mid tempo Busted Up, an entertaining tale of someone who, were it not for bad luck, would have no luck at all! On Hoodlum Wife, Phil Jones bass lays a nice solid, easy loping foundation, with Tim’s mandolin and Dave’s acoustic guitar filling out the sound behind Tim’s lead vocal on the story of the wife from hell. Quite dark thematically but with a
light humourous touch! Ice To Ashes is probably the first overtly swampy song on this tremendous album, with some lovely dirty slide guitar supported by banjo on a slow thumping bluesy beat
about the aging process and that beauty, independence and health eventually fades, with loneliness being the penalty for starting out with an attitude of not needing anyone else. Long Way Down
is a gorgeous haunting story about being left by a lover who goes on to fame and fortune but eventually falls, all done with no sign of bitterness and with Dave’s hugely atmospheric banjo dominating the instrumentation. The speedy banjo driven Bad day almost has the feel and tempo of a comedy song, or it would, were it not for the fact there are three murders included in yet another well written song! Hunt Me Down is a dark swampy, creepilly evocative blues tale about being pursued by the devil, with Willi’s always powerful vocals and some excellent banjo and slide guitar giving it the perfect atmosphere for the subject matter. Finally Shiny Shiny is the ‘odd one out,’ with
the inclusion of strings! It starts off with a really swampy ‘Southern Comfort’ sounding bluesiness, then when the strings come in is given a strange almost cinematic lift. As good an anti materialistic song as you will hear and quite haunting. There are great melodies, excellent stories, powerful singing and playing, varied tempos and even a tremendous accapella song. It would be easy to
write glowingly about every song on this album but ultimately you should purchase a copy and confirm it’s excellence yourself.
Five excellent albums to their name and they still manage to imbue their ‘Hillbilly blues’with a huge amount of drive and originality that few if any can match. Long may they continue to do so.
Brilliant album by a brilliant band!