[4 August 2008]
According to their bio, Escape the Floodwater Jug Band plays a “third wave” style of jug band music: a combination of the genre’s history (an up-tempo style that employs washboard, washtub bass, jug and similar instruments) with “the ethos and energy of punk rock.” Translating those labels to their second full-length finds the sextet of fresh-faced Iowans offering 13 paeans to hard living (especially on “Cocaine Habit” and “Achin’ for Some Bacon” not to mention a wealth of tunes about drinking) and the apparent hardships that come with playing in a jug band (“Is It Hard Being a Jug Band”).
The group’s youthful energy and instrumental prowess go a long way in delivering a style of music that could seem antiquated or gimmicky to the most jaded modern listener but contains all the richness of blues, folk and bluegrass traditions. Five members share the album’s vocal duties and their singing is both the most interesting and least palatable element of the band’s sound. Sometimes rough and husky, at others light and winsome, the band’s towering vocal harmonies are sometimes built (intentionally, of course) out of a lack of true accord in timbre and quality. While this might preclude Escape the Floodwater from immediate accessibility, it ultimately is a strength. It remains to be seen if they can do for jug bands what groups like Old Crow Medicine Show have done for older styles of roots music, but Escape the Floodwater have certainly succeeded in injecting some variety and pure excitement into a music industry that often needs such things.