Devil in a Woodpile
In Your Lonesome Town
First Appeared in The Music Box, March 2005, Volume 12, #3
Written by T.J. Simon
Devil in a Woodpile specializes in the sort of no-frills blend of ragtime and delta blues that has become a weekly staple at The Hideout, a roadhouse bar nestled in a heavily industrial neighborhood of Chicago. The group’s informal Tuesday night gathering is one of the city’s friendliest musical traditions, and it typically features the band’s members seated in a semi-circle as the Pabst-drinking patrons gather around them. The warmth of this weekly event is captured perfectly on the ensemble’s latest studio release In Your Lonesome Town, which features a dozen, old-time trips through the "porch music" genre. Led by the froggy baritone of Rick "Cookin’" Sherry, Devil in a Woodpile punctuates its rustically simple guitar arrangements with bits of washboard, clarinet, tuba, kazoo, upright bass, kick drum, and harmonica. Lest listeners should confuse the group’s relaxed attitude with a lack of professionalism, however, In Your Lonesome Town offers proof positive that all of the band’s participants are amazingly adept musicians. For the record, much of the its material — 11 of the album’s 12 tracks, to be specific — have been around long enough to have become a part of the public domain. For example, Devil in a Woodpile’s blues-oriented excursions include songs such as Sonny Terry’s A Long Way from Home and Big Bill Broonzy’s When I’m Drinkin’. The best classic ragtime number in the collection is Has My Gal Been by Here?, which is propelled by Sherry’s clarinet accompaniment as the oompah-oompah of a tuba provides the bass line. Elsewhere, Sherry demonstrates his harmonica skills on Stovepipe Blues/Greenville Strut, and on Blind Roosevelt Graves’ fine, country-gospel tune I’ll Be Rested, the ensemble instantly transports the listener to the Great Depression era. Admittedly, it takes a certain mood to inspire a person to pop a suite of old-time blues and ragtime recreations into a modern stereo, but once one buys into the concept, it’s hard to refrain from smiling when a group as talented as Devil in a Woodpile plies its trade. In that regard, In Your Lonesome Town is as fitting a tribute to American roots music as any present day extrapolation. ˝
In Your Lonesome Town is available
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box