[5 February 2007]
A record titled Chicken on a Raft is hard to pass up—but come to find out, even harder to put down. This disc of British and American folk traditionals and ballads is wonderfully executed. Oakland scene vets Thom Moore and Tommy Carns perform the material largely a capella, with crisp harmonies recorded clean and pure. The band’s name comes from a song by British maritime folk legend Cyril Tawney, and their self-titled record, though earnest and reverent, avoids both sterility and gimmicks. In the spirit of Tim Eriksen and John Wesley Harding, Moore and Carns delight in unearthing compositions like “Lady Gay” and “Cherry Tree Carol” for their melodic richness and timeless themes. One of the album’s greatest treasures, however, is “I Got Your Ice Cold Nugrape”, a bizarre little tune originally recorded in 1926 by the Nugrape Twins, and thought to be used as an advertisement for the drink. Moore and Carns deliver its strange, gospel/commercial lyrics with the same respect they keep for Child ballads. For fans of traditional folk and songcraft, or curious newcomers to pre-modern pop music, Chicken on a Raft is a must have.