Asylum Street Spankers: Adam Booker (arco bass); John Salmon (drum set); Christina Marrs, Eamon McLaughlin, Josh Arnson, Leroy Biller, Stanley Smith, Wammo, Pops Bayless, Mysterious John.
Personnel: Pops Bayless (vocals, whistling, guitar, tenor guitar, ukulele, slide whistle); Josh Arnson (vocals, guitar, tenor guitar); Christina Marrs (vocals, guitar, ukulele, background vocals); Stanley Smith (vocals, ukulele, clarinet, bass clarinet); Wammo (vocals, harmonica, bongos, washboard, sound effects, background vocals); Mysterious John (vocals, kazoo); Bob Brozman (guitar, slide guitar, National guitar, charango, ukulele); Leroy Biller (guitar); Eamon McLaughlin (mandolin, violin, fiddle); Sara Nelson (cello); Glover Gill (accordion); Rick White (trumpet); John Salmon (drums).
Additional personnel: Glover Gill (accordion); Sara Nelson, Rick White, Bob Brozman.
Audio Mixer: Daniel Thomas.
Recording information: Fire Station Studio, San Marcos, TX; The Fire Station Studio, San Marcos, TX.
Photographer: George Brainard.
Unknown Contributor Role: Christina Marrs.
This, Asylum Street Spankers' sophomore recording, breezes in on acoustic guitar and ukulele strains and the words "Life ain't a cakewalk, it's a waltz/And they're playing my music out of time" -- and it only gets better from there. Indeed, the Asylum Street Spankers, a loose, unplugged collective of Austin, TX, pickers and bon vivants, seem to have little trouble, on Hot Lunch's 16 cuts, deftly blending virtuosic musicianship with seemingly effortless musical and lyrical wit. The band flits between ragtime, country, old-style am radio pop tunes, swing, and country-blues with equal ease. The Spankers are -- particularly on such puckish, narrative cuts as "Trippin' Over You," "Sad Bomber," and others -- manage to walk the razor thin line between novelty and just plain fun-lovin' jamboree frolics. It's this graceful self-awareness that separates Asylum Street Spankers from such less graceful musical revivalists as the Squirrel Nut Zippers. In fact, on the cut "Smells Like Thirty-Something," the Spankers seem to, well, spank the mid-'90s swing revival craze on its rump, chiding, atop a rollicking, bluesy riff, "I like martinis/and I like cigars/But I hate martini and cigar bars." Somewhere between that sense of humor and vocalist/instrumentalist (for every Spanker is a multi-instrumentalist) Christina Marrs' sublime vocals lies the charm of Asylum Stret Spankers as expressed in these grooves. A beautiful, rocking, and rollicking unplugged beer-and-pot party populated with the most unpretentious, heartbreaking characters you're ever likely to meet. ~ Chris Handyside