Joel Mabus

Six of One

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Six of One, the old saying goes, a half-dozen of the other. In this instance, that means six originals by multi-instrumentalist Joel Mabus and six traditional pieces. Switching between contemporary pieces and timeworn ones, like "Old Smokey" and "Careless Love," provides a fun mix that keeps the listener listening. There's a deeply moving version of "Old Baggum," a mysterious piece filled with elliptical lyrics carried along by a string of minor-key banjo notes. Old Baggum, with his sword and pistol by his side, hunts for a wild boar that kills men and drinks their blood. Mabus controls the drama like a master storyteller, and when he follows his tale with the instrumental "Toss the Feathers," he provides a breathing space that allows the story time to settle deep into the listener's consciousness. Perhaps the oddest though most enjoyable song on the album is "Little Baby Lindberg." This darkly humorous piece begins with, "Little baby Lindberg, never saw it coming," then chronicles a number of historical disasters: John Jacob Astor boards the Titanic, Lincoln goes to the theater, and Elvis spends his last few minutes in the bathroom. Mabus suggests, in this most creative of putdown songs, that the person he's singing to, like these historical figures, will get theirs one day. Despite such dark moments, the album ends on a happy note with the upbeat "Back Porch of Glory" and a jaunty version of "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down." Six of One serves as a fine intro to Mabus and will be welcomed by his fans.