Blues Bytes


December 2009

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The Asylum Street Spankers
God's Favorite Band
Yellow Dog Records

Asylum Street Spankers

The Asylum Street Spankers have been exploring the wide range of American roots music since the mid ’90s. For their latest release, God’s Favorite Band (Yellow Dog Records), the band takes on gospel music with a mix of old traditional tunes and some new original compositions by harmonica/washboard player/vocalist Wammo, recorded at the Saxon Pub in their home base of Austin, TX.

Actually, a foray into gospel music is not that much of a reach for the Spankers. Many of the songs featured on this disc were originally performed by the band during a three-year stint at Austin’s Sunday Gospel Brunch that became a much-loved event over the years. The band sounds great performing these songs before an enthusiastic crowd.

The disc opens with a harrowing version of Blind Willie Johnson’s chilling “Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground,” then jumps to the Old Testament story song, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.” Guitarist/vocalist Christina Marrs does an incredible reading of “Last Mile of The Way” that will raise goose bumps.

Other traditional tracks like “Down By The Riverside” and “Wade In The Water” put the band’s impressive group harmonies up front, while “Jesus Walking On The Water” will surely get your hands clapping and your toe tapping. Wammo’s two new songs include the humorously ambivalent “Right and Wrong,” and the whimsical “Volkswagen Thing,” should bring a smile. The closing track is a boisterous version of the Gershwins’ “It Ain’t Necessarily So.”

The current Spankers (Marrs, Wammo, Nevada Newman – lead guitar and vocals, Sick – fiddle, mandolin, and vocals, PB Shane – string bass, and Scott Marcus – drums, percussion) are joined by a pair of alums – Guy Forsyth, who plays resonator guitar and does lead and harmony vocals, and Stanley Smith, who plays clarinet and also takes a lead vocal.

With God’s Favorite Band, the Asylum Street Spankers demonstrate that gospel music is the root music of many, if not all, American genres of music. At times, both faithful and somewhat irreverent, the disc should appeal to fans of gospel or roots music.

--- Graham Clarke


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