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iTunes Music Review - Spanks for the Memories

  • Spanks for the Memories

    • 8 out of 5
    • Asylum Street Spankers
    • Reviewed by Bryan Chaffin
    • Buy this album from Amazon.com
    • Buy this album from iTunes Music Store
    • The Asylum Street Spankers are...well...The Spankers. Hailing from Austin, where I saw them live dozens of times, the band played entirely acoustically, with a style that borrows equally from the Blues, Jazz, Country, and Bluegrass, while dipping into the 1920s, 30s, 40, and 50s. Few bands can attempt such a montage and pull it off, and fewer still can do it without spiraling into a morass of stale kitsch, but this incarnation of The Spankers did it, and Spanks for the Memories is in most ways a great representation of that.

      While each of the band members sings a song or two, it is guitar god Guy Forsyth's numbers which stand out the most, starting with a cover of Robert Johnson's rocking and stomping Blues classic "If I had Possession Over Judgement Day." Guy Forsyth at his best in both his singing and playing, this song is what The Spankers were all about.

      Another Guy showcase on the album is "Hometown Boy," a not-so pretty look at growing up in a small town in Texas, though you have to listen hard to catch the themes of racism and violence. It's truly beautiful, in a sad and haunting way, and the sparse harmonies are about as close to perfect as you can get.

      Co-front person Chrstina Mars shines on "Shave 'Em Dry," though the version found on Nasty Novelties is better (Note: The Explicit Lyrics warning is quite appropriate for that record). Colonel Josh's cover of "Hesitation Blues" and Stan Smith's rendition of "Walkin' & Whistlin' Blues" are also standouts for those two performers, while "Lee Harvey" is one of the few numbers from band-member Wammo that I like.

      On the negative side, the engineering on this album is weak, and few of the recordings do the performances justice. The beautiful harmonies in "Tradewinds" are barely heard, and everything is muddied in the amusing rework of "Smoke that Cigarette" that The Spankers call "Funny Cigarette."

      The problem stems from the fact that this is a large band that is entirely acoustic, and few studios have the ability to properly record such performances in this age of isolation booths and directional mics. Indeed, Spanks for the Memories was recorded in an empty house, and not one that is known for its acoustic prowess. Still, it's a great album, despite its technical shortcomings.

      Note the hidden track from Pops Bayless called "Pinch Me" at the end of "Hometown Boy."

      Favorite songs: "If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day," "Walkin & Whistlin Blues," "Tradewinds," "Funny Cigarette," "Hometown Boy," "Lee Harvey."

     

     

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