Amped Up Acoustic
Larry and his Flask are a six-piece raucous country punk outfit out of Portland, Oregon whose high-spirited acoustic thrash is finding its way to bigger and bigger festival stages. Their newest release, By The Lamplight, captures the raw energy of their live shows with twelve upbeat tracks. Five years ago, “The Flask,” as they are known by fans, were a rock three-piece. After plenty of line-up additions and subtractions, the band went through a change of genre when they traded electric instruments for acoustic. Formed in 2002 by brothers Jesse and Jamin Marshall, the band currently features banjo, mandolins, upright bass, and horns. At times, they sound reminiscent of Squirrel Nut Zippers with a burlesque bawdiness. What Gogol Bordello represents for gypsy punk, LAHF attempt to do for bluegrass.
When on tour, LAHF are in the habit of busking, a time-honored street music tradition that allows them to make some gas money while honing their portable and acoustic skills. As a recording, By The Lamplight captures that live energy.”The Battle For Clear Sight” mixes a plucked banjo groove with a fast four-on-the-floor kick, creating a Mumford and Sons-esque quality. “Home Of The Slave” is a fast blues jam and features a killer guitar lead by guitarist and lead vocalist Ian Cook. Cook croons like a vaudevillian master of ceremonies. You can picture him in a red striped suit with a cane and a top hat luring crowds to the freak show at the circus. He has a strong and compelling tenor that goes a little too far towards gimmicky at times, but generally commands the group effectively with its turn-of-the-century style vibrato. The barbershop harmonies on By The Lamplight are a standout and the first track, “Pandemonium,” opens a cappella to set the tone.
There are a bunch of bands out there doing the Americana retro thing. It’s trendy and getting overdone. Larry and his Flask are not the best of the bands mimicking the sounds and looks of the days gone by, and the songwriting is not the strongest or most original. But the musicianship, especially the singing, is solid.By The Lamplight is fun and vivacious and a few listens will make you want to check them out live.