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September 10, 1993 - Image 17

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The Michigan Daily, 1993-09-10

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The Michigan Daily -Friday, September 10, 1993-17

Hary Rose
Banjo Crackerjax
Yazoo Records
Could the banjo ever be a classical
instrument? Well, because of high-brow
disdain for the tickled twang of five
string flurries, the banjo has had a hard
time outgrowing its provincial roots.
But, in the early decades of this century,
Harry Reser's whacked attack brought
anew level of appreciation to the humble
steel and skin.
Inspired by the innovative musi-
cianship of turn of the century banjo
ragamuffins VessOssman and Fred Van
Eps, Reser was determined to awe the
Broadway cafecrowd. Reserdidn'tjust
abduct their starchy and cumbersome
banjoizations of pop rags. His nimble
phalanges and quick wit blended the
quirky tricks of Novelty ragtime with a
bit of jazz banjo stomp. He made salon
cake walks into galloping delicacies.
Sure these hum-dingers are filled to
the brim with kitsch and tin-pan sap, but
the ear-bending musicianship short-cir-
cuits any connection with corny croon-
ers. He'sso swift, you may gointobanjo
denial, swearing there must be two ban-
joists playing together (Like my persis-
tent disbelief that pre-pubescent Larry
Collins couldn't really have played
those amazing Collins Kids' solos).
If the music doesn'tconvince you of
Reser's lucid lunacy, then the sleeve's
picture of Reser and his Cliquot Club
Eskimos radio orchestra dressed in Es-
kimo suits should cinch it (this was
radio, folks,notMT V). So Reserwasn't
exactly a hipster, making the lowly
rounds of hotel lobbies and Armed
Forces mess halls; but he was the fore-
most flapper on the frets. At least his
constituents didn't frequent poodle
shows to melodify canine capers, like
. Van Eps's banjo pals.
All of Reser's cross-picked chums
have the sweetness of lollipops with
burning zot bursts inside. He may seem
tame and caramel coated, but the hidden
surprises are what make it crackerjack
banjo ...even if you have to dig a bit to
find them.
Chris Wyrod
Antenna
Hideout
Mammoth Records
Well, well, well. It looks like more
than just Juliana Hatfield is rising from
the ashes of the Blake Babies. John
Strohm, co-founder of that band, re-
cently reunited his side-band, Antenna,
which includes bassist-vocalist Jake
Smith and ex-Blake Babies drummer
Freda Love, for another effort. What
they came up with, afteronly five weeks
* in the studio, was a focused and cohe-
sive batch of songs, and an album of
multi-texturedsonic landscapesentitled
"Hideout."
Strohm is still an enigmatic
songwriter, and few of thesongs portray
any particular conciseness, though
many, such as"Wall Paper," "Still Life"
and "Rust" point toward a man both
content with a sedentary lifestyle and
angry at himself for feeling this way.
"Hideout" is delightfully thick in
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sound, with layers floating on top of
everything and small touches thrown in
for spice, such as the Coltrane sample
tacked on the end of "Rust." Though
guitars reign supreme, Strohm is not a
riff-monger in the same sense as Dino-
saur Jr.'s J. Mascis, but prefers to let the
guitar textures work a subtle magic
instead. This is not to say that Antenna
is merely trying to be the next dreamy
4AD wonder, nay, there are actually
tunes tucked away amidst the produc-
tion of "Hideout," and quite delightful
ones at that.
Juliana Hatfield should beware -
this is ear-candy sweet enough to even

steal a bit of the spotlight from her.
-Dirk Schulze
Back Porch Blues
Back to Basics
Burnside Records
"Back to Basics" by Back Porch
Blues isabreath of fresh air inthe all too
slick and electrified world of today.
Primarily an acoustic trio, the band lives
up to the promise of the album title with
an easy sound that is as soulful as it is
relaxed. In the course of the 13 tracks,
the three of them work through such
classics as "See See Rider" and "Baby
Please Don't Go" and claim individual

or group songwriting credits on eight
others, none of which are overshad-
owed by the covers, a problem many
blues artists run into when recording
their own material.
Jeffrey Dawkins, who also plays
percussion on most tracks, plays a har-
monica as laid-back as anything else on
the album, while Whit Draper's guitar
slides along naturally. Sheila
Wilcoxson's smooth vocals, meanwhile,
work each song for all its worth. She
even cops a fairly serious attitude on
"Mean OldMan," in which she declares
See RECORDS, Page 19

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