The Minimalist Jug Band
Naive Ville (Independent)
Each new recording by Vancouver’s Al Mader brings him further into the realm of something like popular music. His first CD, 2003’s For Crying Out Loud, produced by Chris Houston, had self-deprecating, blackly witty poetry set to sparse, self-taught washtub bass, with abundant references to a pop-cultural scene that Mader then seemed irreconcilable with. Thrift Stories (2007) saw the addition of banjos, guitars, and jug, with guests like Mader’s performing cohort Petunia and former Red Herring guitarist Steve Nikleva. It was a strangely exuberant affair, including Mader’s “Dead Man’s Pants” (given added local fame by a novelty-tune rearrangement by the Creaking Planks) and “Raven or Crow”, which suggests Nick Cave gone rockabilly.
Mader’s most recent disc, Naive Ville, amps it up even further—it’s his most confident and most musical offering to date, evoking at times the hobo-jungle equivalent of Black Rider–era Tom Waits, with Mader’s obsessive plunkings enriched by trumpets, accordion, keyboards, violin, saw, whistling, and guitar, and songs spanning his trip to Iceland (“Reykjavik”), his disenfranchisement from the holiday season (“Let’s Not Bother With Christmas”), and statements of faith in human mendacity (“Nobody’s Telling It” and “Never Believe”). Cemeteries are mentioned repeatedly.
It’s not an easy disc to assimilate or describe, but a certain stripe of weirdo will love it.
Download This: "Reykjavik"