Acoustic Mayhem

Traditional Music

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It's a mixed turnout for Acoustic Mayhem's debut album, Traditional Music. This Iowa City string band has definite possibilities. Not all of them are fully realized on this first effort; even so, you can see where they're going with it, and later albums bear that out with improvement. The recording quality of this CD is uneven, a technical flaw that, fortunately, they move beyond with their later releases, Norski Celts and All Over the Lot. Some songs, like "Red Haired Boy" (which may be more familiarly known as "Johnny Dhu"), would do better with a re-recording, as the volume is a bit too soft on the vocals. And traditionalists may prefer a male vocal lead, rather than female, since the song's protagonist is male. The autoharp on "Grandfather's Clock" is a bit jangly in the beginning, yet settles out, and works effectively by the chorus. Their version of "Froggie Went a Courtin'" is a more traditional -- and so more gruesome -- version, where the tomcat eats up the mouse and her Uncle Rat. ("That was the end of him and her/Won't see any tadpoles covered in fur.") If your kids like a more gory style, go for it. If they're tenderhearted, listeners may prefer a different song. On the upside, "Joe Medley" is as lively and down-home as any traditionalist could wish -- it has the real old-fashioned string band sound, for sure. "Wet and Dry Medley" may start out slow and mannerly, but they kick it into high gear before it gets to the end. They also do an effective job of sharing the lead in "Devilish Medley," which contains the story-song "The Farmer's Cursed Wife." So while this debut venture could still use a bit of polishing in places, it also shows their potential, which they go on to realize more fully with their later releases, particularly All Over the Lot.