Review: Asylum Street Spankers – God’s Favorite Band

Posted on: Tuesday, Dec 22, 2009

ASYLUM STREET SPANKERS

“God’s Favorite Band”

(Yellow Dog Records: YDR 1049)

Now here’s a fun way to pass 40 minutes or so . . . the latest release from the irreverent Austin, Texas band, Asylum Street Spankers, a live set from The Saxon Pub in 2006 . . . 11 tracks of gospel, blues, ragtime and more, with no lack of humour and also musical skills on offer! They are possibly a new name to some, but have an extensive back catalogue of recordings, going back to 1996.

The band have been around since 1995, and are led by vocalist Christina Marrs, who also produced and mixed the album, and Wammo, who features on harmonica, washboard and vocals – the line-up completed by Nevada Newman (guitar and vocals), Stanley Smith (clarinet and vocals), Guy Forsyth (resonator guitar and vocals), Sick (fiddle, mandolin and vocals), PB Shane (string bass) and Scott Marcus (drums).

The album features some blues and gospel standards and a few original songs, kicking off with a version of Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground”, dominated by Guy Forsyth’s chilling slide guitar, followed by the Dixieland-flavoured “Shadrach, Meshach, And Abednego”, an Old Testament related story with some fine harmonies. The traditional “Each Day” has Christina Marrs hollering a fine vocal in best Bessie Smith style!

Wammo’s dark original “Right And Wrong” features some hilarious lyrics, this stompy blues again punctuated with Guy Forsyth’s guitar, with the uptempo Violent Femmes tune “Jesus Walking On The Water” flying along, with more superb harmonies from the band, and fiery fiddle playing from Sick.

The gospel tune “Last Mile Of The Way” sees a heartfelt vocal from Christina Marrs, and is followed by the chestnut “Down By The Riverside”, again given a Dixieland jazz feel by way of Stanley Smith’s clarinet. “By And By” is another traditional tune interpreted by the band in their own way . . . some nice harmonica from Wammo, lashings of clarinet and great work from the rhythm section of PB Shane and Scott Marcus.

The original “Volkswagen Thing”, from the pen of Wammo, is delivered Hank Williams style, with more witty lyrics, with the album closer being a Gershwin classic – “It Ain’t Necessarily So” – a far cry from the original I must add, but again great fun!

This release captures the band on top form in front of a home city audience, and is a great collection of American roots music, that will definitely bring a smile to your face in these difficult times!

GRAHAME RHODES

www.asylumstreetspankers.com

www.yellowdogrecords.com

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