Into That Fire With A Lampshade On
Dustbowl Revival, at its core an eight-piece ensemble, aim to keep American roots music alive and well. Coming at you live from Venice Beach, Calif., Dustbowl Revival present their fourth album, With A Lampshade On. A fast-paced, string and brass band backed, mixed genre, constant surprise and an all around super fun record, Dustbowl Revival deliver.
The construction, genre influences or instrumentation from the front to back of With A Lampshade On are not 100-percent predictable; there’s something new to hear at any moment of any track. For example, “Ain’t My Fault” has a saxophone solo three-and-a-half minutes into the track followed by a tambourine solo and then a more traditional drum solo by Joshlyn Hefferman. Often, as in the case of “Ain’t My Fault,” the track is on the longer side because it features these instrumental solos which keep the momentum moving. “Bright Lights” even evokes a tango-inspired groove as opposed to “Old Joe Clark” and its unapologetic raucous two-step country flare or string band-heavy “Ballad of the Bellhop.”
The album is chock full of instrumental features in the string band/jazz tradition from each member of Dustbowl Revival, including a growling, muted trumpet (Matt Rubin) in “Wrapped Up In My Heart,” trombone (Ulf Bjorlin) and upright bass (James Klopfleisch) solos in “Whiskey in the Well,” a fiddle (Daniel Mark) and mandolin (Daniel Mark) or banjo dueling feature in “Cherokee Shuffle,” and clapping break in “Never Had to Go.” The combined timbre of lead vocalists, Liz Beebe and Zach Lupetin, in addition to the overall group energy, are reminiscent of jazz vocal group Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, just with a little more folk/country.
Nothing is too serious. “Doubling Down On You” is a slower ballad led by Beebe and almost passive-aggressive because the lyrics (and music) are so creative: “If you keep turning me off I’m never gonna turn you on,” “So you gotta big machine … I can hear your motor turning but the grass is always greener. / I close my eyes and drive straight ahead.” Meanwhile, the dexterous two-step “Lampshade On” affair about (shock!) drinking antics involves running “into that fire with my lampshade on.”
If the cheering in the background isn’t clear enough, With A Lampshade On abandons the perfection of studio polishing and it sounds live, in the way that American roots music should be heard. As a result, it’s hard not to fall in love with the fun antics wrapped in the exceptional music package of Dustbowl Revival, and willingly follow them straight into that fire with a lampshade on.