[14 July 2008]
Mad Tea Party’s Found a Reason is a delicious juke joint jaunt, with emphasis on the “uke”. The duo from Asheville plays rockabilly, early punk, old time, and 1960s rock and roll (among others) with a Buddy Holly swagger and the authenticity of 1930s street performers. They call themselves “uke-abilly”. Founder Ami Worthen (vocals, ukulele, acoustic guitar) and Jason Krekel (vocals, electric guitar, fiddle, bass, drums) returned to a two-piece format after playing with different lineups. The scaled-down setup works well for the mixture the two musicians have going. Both musicians combine forces as their from-another-time musical selves create familiar sounds with a vintage-hip frothiness. The two are ahead of their time, just as their “I Never Was a Cool One” suggests. “Didn’t wear name brands / I always had bad hair / I had to wear headgear”, Worthen sings as she lists reason after reason for her lack of coolness growing up. However, the self-deprecating nerd-core vantage point works wonders for this duo’s appeal.
“Blue Slip In” begins the album with some uke-surf, layering electric ukulele, electric guitar, percussion and “oohs” and “bow wah wah wahs”. The jaunty refrain and key change belie the song’s blue sentiments. The male and female vocal harmonies also add a front against the creeping-up blues. “Every Way” starts next, recalling punk’s early days of shout-singing and simple chord progression. Vocal processing adds texture and gristle to the already-raucous soundstage. Grunge-style garage rock proceeds to bridge the high-energy verses and chorus as Krekel employs feedback and loud double-time drumming. Each track goes on combine unlikely music pairings, like the traditional “Polly Put Your Kettle On” with old-time fiddle and Krekel’s rockabilly vocals, with the authority of two musicians seemingly plucked from the past.