Squirrel Nut Zippers

Bedlam Ballroom

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Despite undergoing massive lineup changes, among which were vocalist and guitar player Tom Maxwell going solo, the death of original trumpet blower Stacy Guess, and the birth of a daughter to bandleaders Jim Mathus and Katherine Whalen in May 2000, the Squirrel Nut Zippers persevered through all of it to release a wonderful, progressive (for them) album. Granted, the hot jazz and Dixieland tunes that the band is known for are still present, but the first thing one hears upon listening to this album is a synthesizer and a Spanish guitar. And how about some '70s funk and soul? Funky is the surprising quality of this work, which is why the album stands out among the group's past efforts. Perennial Favorites had some good performances, but seemed more of a mere continuation of what was laid down on Hot. Here, New Orleans-type funky grooves mix with a Spanish guitar on consecutive tracks, and the juxtaposition reminds the listener of just how magnificent and inspired the Squirrel Nut Zippers can be when they try to grow. Perhaps those who were a part of the neo-swing "revival" of the mid- to late-'90s won't be so receptive to this album, but to anyone who enjoys spirited old-timey music (spanning a range of times), Bedlam Ballroom is a damn hoot.

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