The Red Clay Ramblers

Twisted Laurel

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Standing at a crossroads of old-timey music and the kind of progressive thought patterns and creativity that emerge in college towns such as the band's home base of Chapel Hill, the Red Clay Ramblers created a discography that is as much about making records as it is making music. The two biggest influences on this project seem to be the culturally rich results of pioneer recording efforts in American music in the '20s and '30s and the much later explosion of musical creativity in the '60s, when every garage band got to make a big artistic statement. As much as Twisted Laurel would never have been possible without old-time hillbilly music, it also could not exist without the example of albums such as the Band's Music From Big Pink or the refined album efforts of John Prine. It is a meticulously crafted piece of work which, if anything, could use a bit more looseness and edge in its occasional stuffy moments. Sometimes the good-timey numbers will prompt a listener to turn the volume down; it can be just too much hyper energy, despite the brilliance of the recorded sound. Yet the band seems to know when to pull back, following up the overdone pseudo-swing of "The Corrugated Lady" with a marvelous solo vocal and fiddle tour de force by Bill Hicks. The instrumental numbers such as "Flying Cloud Cotillon" are masterful, the piano playing of Mike Craver an absolute delight. The recording date is listed as 1967 on some copies of the album; however, be assured that even the nervous Flying Fish label wouldn't have waited nearly a decade to release this.

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