The Brand New Old School
If the Matthew Brady Civil War-styled cover photo isn’t indication enough, the Old Times There… album title should make it abundantly clear that the South Memphis String Band traffics in musical antiquity. No songs about pumped up kicks, paparazzi, or turning your swag on here. Instead, you’ll find pre-WWII ditties extolling the virtues of turnip greens, greasy skillets and feather beds. The band, a veteran roots-rock supergroup of sorts, comprised of Alvin Youngblood Hart, Jimbo Mathus, and Luther Dickinson, is especially well-suited to handle this unplugged material. In their respective professional careers, all three have proven themselves to be deft interpreters of traditional Southern music fare. On Old Times There…, their second release, the group employed vintage ribbon microphones to record themselves playing live. This lends both the cover and original material an added air of credibility. Hart and Mathus are especially gifted vocalists, infusing songs like “Some of These Days” and “See Me Uncle Sam” with just the right amount of pathos and humor. The instrumental interludes (“Good Old Rebel”, “Take This Hammer”, and “Sandy River Belle”) if not entirely necessary, also tastefully invoke the spirit of days gone by. But even sepia-toned nostalgia gets cumbersome eventually and by the time you hit the 35 minute mark, this record risks becoming as old as its subject matter. Maybe that’s the point though…
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