If ever you had a secret yearning for the trashy, deep Southern good-time sound of bluegrass country but were just too hip to get involved, here's your answer. O' Cracker Where Art Thou? is a collaboration between David Lowery and Johnny Hickman from the band Cracker, and Colorado jam-band Leftover Salmon. The result, apart from being your socially acceptable entrée to country, is a good-time fest of the shit kickin' rocksteady kind.
The simple idea here was to get the two bands together and re-interpret songs from the Cracker canon - and have a good time doing it. I'll come clean and state I don't know Cracker music, and I'd never heard of Leftover Salmon before this turned up either. But on the strength of this offering I'd be quite happy to go take a look.
Lyrically sharp and funny, here's a collection of tales at times characterised by a pulsing vein of cynicism. The good humour married to this knowing edginess mercifully removes it far enough from the often dour discourse of proper country to give it a more worldly and less trailer-park feel.
The music is sublime. Traditional Nashville and bluegrass instrumentation played with real feeling and expertise lends an air of authority and authenticity without ever losing that knowing smile. Noam Pikelney on banjo and Bill McKay on piano are the kind of talents that should be up there with the likes of Albert Lee in the Country Music Hall Of Fame. But the others players in this musical amalgam know just what they're doing, and don't they just rip into those songs. Try not moving when you've got tracks like Lonesome Johnny Blues or Teen Angst to contend with.
So then, if you're too slick to be seen with a country album in your collection, but nonetheless can barely suppress those hayseed urges to reel about in a tumbledown barn, here's your chance to go get 'em without any loss of credibility.
:: Tom Alford