Some twenty-first century efforts to evoke the vanished past — well-intentioned for sure — have the goofy effect of watching a child dressed up in adult clothes. You want to applaud, but the clothes are hilariously too big and the child has not grown into them. Come back in fifteen years.
Other times, the musicians have so internalized the sounds that, although you know “it’s not the original,” it is captivating, with its own energy — evoking that once-lost world. Late-night dancing, nickels in the jukebox, poignant singing to the accompaniment of a small band or a groovy pianist, hard times and deep fun.
That’s the case with this new CD (recorded in April 2020) by Miss Jubilee and the Yas Yas Boys, COOL IT IF YOU CAN. I was immediately pleased by a few things (even before playing it): a band that takes its CD title from a performance by Frankie Half-Pint Jaxon is already showing the right credentials, and the inclusion of MURDER IN THE MOONLIGHT, homage to mid-Thirties Red McKenzie on Decca, was further reinforcement. Could I pass up a CD where one of musicians doubles on “trash can”?
I’ve admired the work of Miss Jubilee and her band before here — their compelling joyous authenticity that never strains to be authentic. They just are.
Their new CD has the fierce playfulness of a good loud party (not the one your neighbors are having while you are trying to sleep). There are pots of delicious food on the stove, there’s plenty of ice for the drinks, you are encouraged to have a second helping of everything. And the music is swinging. Hear for yourself:
The band is Valerie Kirchhoff, vocal; Ethan Leinwand, piano; Richard Tralles, string bass; Kenneth Cebrian, trumpet; Ryan Calloway, clarinet; Ryan Koenig, washboard, guitar, banjo, trash can; Nick Pence, guitar, washboard.
And the repertoire, which comes from the aforementioned Mr. Jaxon, Clara Smith, Victoria Spivey, Red McKenzie, the Missourians, the State Street Swingers, Big Bill Broonzy, the Modern Mountaineers, the Harlem Hamfats, Lil Johnson, the Famous Hokum Boys, and Bob Howard — runs the gamut from what I think of as deep Black Chicago to good-time barbecue music, from acoustic Columbia blues moaning to let’s-get-drunk-and-truck. You’ll figure out your own associations when you hear the songs: YOU DO ME ANY OLD WAY / MURDER IN THE MOONLIGHT / MOANING THE BLUES / MISSISSIPPI SANDMAN / FAN IT / DON’T TEAR MY CLOTHES No. 2 / I’VE GOT SOMEONE / WEED SMOKER’S DREAM / PRESCRIPTION FOR THE BLUES / COME ON IN / THAT BONUS DONE COME TRUE / ANY KIND-A-MAN / No. 12 LET ME ROAM / THERE AIN’T GONNA BE NO DOGGONE AFTER AWHILE.
The disc is available here, where you can also learn more about the band and their previous — as they would say in 1940 — “waxings.”
In 2o18, I wrote, “They make the best noises.” Do they ever.
May your happiness increase!