O'Death

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Decades before the critics were crying: "Rock is dead!" they were telling everyone: "Folk music is dead." An odd statement, since anyone who knows anything about music knows that folk music -- blues, field hollers, cowboy songs, ancient British and Scotch ballads -- are the foundation of American music from rock to rap. Luckily, nobody told the boys in O'Death the news. Their take on old-timey music reinvents older folk styles for a new generation by dropping punk, grunge, swing, rock, metal and even jazz into their fractured arrangements. Their high-energy renditions may put off purists, but they're in keeping with the folk tradition and while their songs are all self composed, they tip their hat to the past with a winning blend of yesterday and today. Taking their name from Dock Boggs' most famous tune implies that they're not as irreverent about the music as their raucous presentation might suggest. The album kicks off with "Down to Rest," a combination of Appalachian dirge and Cab Calloway style strut. Greg Jamie's uncontained squall sounds like an alcohol fueled frenzy, while the bands stomping swing, particularly the work of Bob Pycior on fiddle, shows they're not messing around. "Allie Mae Reynolds" is a mash-up of bluegrass punk and jug band music with galloping washboard percussion, punk bass and frenzied fiddling, with Jamie's vocals again multiplying the insanity factor. "Busted Old Church" is a spiritual as played by a roomful of pagans keeping rhythm on junkyard percussion instruments. "Ground Stump" is a stomping rave-up with another uncontained vocal from Jamie stitched together with slower, pastoral moments graced by Pycior's fiddle. "Jesus Look Down," a plea for forgiveness for unnamed sins, complements Jamie's woeful vocals with slow ringing acoustic guitar, ghostly electric slide work and moaning fiddle, while "The Crab Apple Switch," a brief instrumental, features ragged banjo picking and odd percussion accents. O'Death makes a mighty noise using mostly acoustic instruments -- Jesse Newman's electric bass and some electric guitar are in evidence -- putting out the kind of energy many amplified bands can only dream of. Along with Jamie's boisterous, barely rational vocals, they create a sound that's unique in any world -- folk, rock, bluegrass or otherwise.

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