The Half Moon Jug Band
Jug Band Army
Jug Band Army, the new release from The Half Moon Jug Band, is a rollicking mix of good old acoustic music, the occasional kazoo blast, and lots of goofy humor. That’s a risky recipe for a CD. Too much of the goofy stuff can make an album unlistenable (like stand-up comedy albums — after a couple of spins, the jokes just wear thinner and thinner).
The beauty of Jug Band Army is that the music carries the record. There are plenty of jokes, but they aren’t forced and don’t overshadow the playing — they just add to the fun. Lucky for us, The Half Mooners know how to balance their inner Bert & I with some damn fine pickin’ and pluckin’. That’s really saying something, too, because Jug Band Army is one hell of a funny CD.
With songs spanning everything from the rat-a-tat-tat title track to the lonesome country blues of “Wiscasset Night Train” to the raw acoustic punk of “She’s So Good,” Jug Band Army is a surprisingly varied collection of tunes. The album runs an impressive sixteen tracks and, more often than not, the Half Mooners shine. For me, the highlight of the CD is a blistering cover of “A Tombstone Every Mile,” a tune made famous by Maine’s late great Dick Curless. Dick’s load of potatoes is safe in the hands of these next-generation Mainers even as they negotiate those infamous icy curves at breakneck speed.
The Half Moon Jug Band has undergone a bit of a personnel shift since we last heard from them. It seems original Half Mooner Jimmy Kazoo has left the group — according to the band’s press materials, Kazoo split “to pursue his life-long dream of being abducted by aliens.” His replacement, Stephen H. “Tap Dancing” Brewer, fits right in with Troy “The Van Gogh of the Banjo” Bennett and Mike “The Drummer” Petruk.
Joining the three “official” members of the Half Moon Jug Band on this album is a roster of impressive guest musicians, billed as “The Jug Band Army Reserve.” Headed by Glen Bolduc on mandolin, “Fiddlin’ Phil from Munjoy Hill” (Phil Swegart), and Carter Ruff on steel, lap steel, and slide guitars, The Reserves round out the sound and really help elevate the Half Mooners’ music.
As fun as it is to hear the Half Moon Jug Band’s first two CDs (Space Man in a Jug Band and Christmas on Exchange Street), Jug Band Army takes the band to the next level. Actually, it takes them several levels up, the way a journeyman outfielder can sometimes make a single jump from single-A to the Bigs.
In that respect, I guess, The Half Moon Jug Band has come a long way from their early days busking as a three-piece on Exchange Street. But in the ways that matter most, they’re the same goofy guys having a blast playing damn fine music. Come in from the cold, boys!
— Tom Flynn
Selections from Jug Band Army can be heard at halfmoonjugband.com.