Tin Men

Super Great Music for Modern Lovers

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The Tin Men trio of New Orleans should for sure not be mixed up with Tinmen, a house music mixing outfit, or T.I.N. Men, a rock band that made one album in the late '90s. Putting aside the small pile of tin entirely, few groups have a sound as nifty as this one. The rhythm section consists of sousaphone and washboard, on top of which squats and flops guitarist and vocalist Alex McMurray. The group's set list is also not something likely to be duplicated, even in the ultra-eclectic new millennium. The group's most modern cover version is the funk tune "Function at the Junction," dating from the '70s and thus at least 20 years more modern than the Tin Men's Sun Ra cover choice, "Dreaming." There's also a slightly overdone Bob Dylan number from the '60s. Otherwise, the trio's program on this cutely titled and illustrated CD is a mix of originals by McMurray and the Tin Pan Alley, early R&B material sometimes lumped together under the category of "standards." The Tin Men take off like a team bent on annihilation, Fats Waller's "Lulu's Back in Town" going forward at a tempo more suitable to running someone out of town. "Cocaine Habit Blues" is brilliant, bringing to mind Dave Van Ronk with a total tuba freak-out in his belly. The rhythm section is simply monstrous: Matt Perrine gives forth the total sousaphone entity -- the best basslines or a burbling chatter, whatever works best. Washboard Chaz may use his instrument's name as part of his stage name because that seems traditional for washboard players, or maybe only to remind listeners that this is what he is playing, the percussion sound as perfectly satisfying as a trap drum set, no doubt without the backache. Even a piffle of Internet research reveals that McMurray is a controversial character. While his originals may make or break a listener's reaction, there is no questioning the quality of his guitar playing, a great aspect of which is a naturally, unfailingly saucy tone. He has no real choice other than to take the considerable heat resulting from placing his originals on a program alongside material of an acknowledged classic nature, an occupational hazard of the eclectic. While it would be a mistake to dismiss his songs as entirely second-rate, several of his pieces on this CD apparently won't mean much to anyone who isn't in the New Orleans music scene in-crowd.

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