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Published: 2002/01/23
by Ray Hogan

Live! – The Clumsy Lovers


The Canadian-based Clumsy Lovers' rootsy string music is informed by
Appalachia by way of Ireland, with a whole lot of modern sensibility
thrown in the mix. Live! was recorded at two shows in the
northwestern US in late 1999 and demonstrates a band that is first and
foremost fun. It's not often that a band segues a riff from the Cult's "She
Sells Sanctuary" into a Celtic-tinged foot-stomper.

The dichotomy – and subsequent resolution – between the old and new is evident throughout the disc: "Orange Blossom Special" sounds as appropriate as the rock era tunes the group presumably grew up on. The Clumsy Lovers essentially combine traditional string instruments (mandolin and fiddle) with full-on rock drumming. While the approach could be a recipe for full-on disaster, it works surprisingly well for the five-piece band. None of the instrumentalists are virtuosos but the band's spirit (and hyper-tempo on Andrea Lewis' fiddle-led tunes) for anything they play is infectious. They're also extremely tight and able to knit everything from Bob Marley's "Stir it Up" and Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" into the fabric of the disc's 12 listed tracks. The band's proclivity to not differentiate between Irish and American melodies not only displays the similarities between the two forms of traditional music but results in something fresh. Drummer Christopher Jonat's rhythmic assaults help that cause.

The band's handful of originals are reverent to the styles they draw from,
with "London Bridge" being the strongest. The vocal
duties are split between Trevor Rodgers and Lewis. Rodgers bring a garage
band-punk attitude to his style while Lewis has a more traditionally
folk voice.
The only major misfire on the 65 minute disc is a cover of AC/DC's "You
Me All Night Long." It's not terrible but does beg the question, "Why?"

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