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Music Reviews

WASHBOARD SLIM & THE BLUE LIGHTS/SELF-TITLED (Jugabilly Records)

Washboard Slim and the Blue Lights are sort of an institution in their home state of Connecticut. The band, which describes themselves as "The Jug Band for the 21st Century", is hard to categorize because their repertoire includes everything from blues, gospel, folk, and roots music to their own originals. The bandís usual stomping grounds include folk festivals and other outdoor events around the Connecticut area but can readily adapt to almost any environment, from their own barn shows to opening slots in blues clubs. This band is not only talented but also extremely versatile.

Band leader Peter Menta (Washboard Slim), who plays washboard, drums, harmonica, kazoo, and assorted percussion instruments (sometimes several at one time), has a long history in the CT music scene and genuinely enjoys what he does. This is most evident when he straps on his portable washboard/one-man band unit, which also includes several other instruments, and does his trademark trot through the crowd to end the bandís regular set. He also contributes vocal and song writing talents to this release.

The Blue Lights are Deirdre Menchaca (Miss Dee) on kazoo and some great lead vocals, Brooks Barnett on vocals, accordion, mandolin, banjo, piano, drums, and sitar, Howard Horn on washtub, jug, vocals, banjo, whoopie, and red nose flute, and Mat Kastner on guitar and vocals. Did I mention that this band is versatile? Letís just say that if they know it they can play it.

This release, their CD debut, includes 12 tracks, 4 of which were recorded live. I was at the live recording and can tell you that the show was recorded in Eli Whitneyís barn, which was built in 1816 and is now a part of the Eli Whitney Museum in Hamden, CT. The barn was packed and the band played off the excitement of the room, which knew it was being recorded. The live performances are thus top-notch all the way. This was Washboard Slim & The Blue Lights playing to their home crowd. The remaining tracks were recorded in Fairfield, CT and although well-done donít quite capture the excitement of the live performance, which is where this band really shines. The CD also features some great cover art by Eric von Schmidt, who also plays harmonica on one track.

The live tracks include the bandís staples "Ragginí The Blues Away", "Dancing Blues", "You Gotta Know How", and "Washboard Wiggles." The standout studio tracks include "Tunnel Of Love", "Hindustan", "PMS Stomp", and Peterís sex anthem for the nineties "No More Bada Boom Bada Bing." A cover of the Whoís "Squeeze Box" rounds out the studio portion.

This disc is available locally in music shops or at the bandís shows. It can also be ordered through the mail from Jugabilly Records, 111 Pearl Avenue, Hamden, CT 06514. For further information call (203)288-4156.