Friday, March 31, 2006:

The Roots Canal (guest blog): Curtis Eller's American Circus

Curtis Eller's American Circus -- Taking Up Serpents Again
I've always had a weakness for oddball banjo music. But I still don't know quite what to make of this guy. He's got a haunting syncopated style. He calls himself "New York City's angriest yodelling banjo player," but I'm not sure that description quite fits. This song, in particular, doesn't sound angry as much as mournful.

The banjo is a superficial instrument. It makes happy music, all sheen and brightness without the resonance or nuance of more complex instruments. But there's also something sad about a banjo. A minor key, like this song, brings out the underlying melancholy. My friend Jennifer Kelly wrote that "there's an intensity, a focus, a concentrated vision that permeates all the cuts on this odd, very compelling album."

Banjo players have always been a little weird. You know, like they just don't fit in. There was a time when banjo players were considered outlaws. Sort of like the original gangsta rappers. Dangerous.

Of course, that was a long time ago. A long time ago.

[Taking Up Serpents Again]
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