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Published: 2003/11/28
by Mike Greenhaus

Moon Over Georgia – Moonshine Still


Moonshine Still have no reason to be sad. Garnering considerable buzz
throughout several major music markets, especially their Southeast womb, the
Georgia sextet are poised to take their slightly-soulful jams to a new level
of popularity. So it might seem a bit surprising that the majority of Moon
Over Georgia’s tracks are titled after laments.

Filling their album with songs like "Blue Moon," "Weeping Mother," "Sad
Girl," and "Pass the Bread Around," Moonshine Still might at first seem to
wallow in their own sorrow. While it’s true that the sextet’s lyrics tackle
serious subjects, the Georgia based band are actually one of the most joyous
jambands to emerge from Southeast in recent memory. Reviving a forgotten
form of storytelling, mixing folk narratives with uptempo jams, Moonshine
Still remove themselves from their woeful tales by way of third-person
narratives and a funk underbelly. Moon Over Georgia is full of
gospel-inspired, musically dense passages. But, staying true to their lazy
Sunday mentality, Moonshine Still never rush their songs. Instead, they let
them develop in a slow, natural manner most folk bards would be proud of.
Stylistically, Moonshine Still offer a standard bag of jamband tricks.
Mixing rock, gospel, and folky lite-trance, their jams, at times, become
generic. Sure, "Pass the Bread Around" has a bouncy funk heart, while
"Dancin’, Talkin’, Livin’" dips into trance and touches of technology-driven
space. But, in general, the group recall relics from the past, ranging from
Max Creek to Umphrey’s McGee. Scott Baston has the grainy, road-worn voice
of Creek front man Scott Murawski and the sextet’s spunky, consciously
cartoonish jams have the twin-guitar energy of Umphrey’s best instrumental
workouts. Yet, while their jams are emotionally stimulating, and at times
curiously manic depressive, Moonshine Still are never musically
groundbreaking. Instead, they are neo-traditionalists and fine ones at that.
Repackaging gospel, funk, and folk into a psychedelic package, the group
plays on comfortable themes, while still searching for a deeper meaning.
Their narratives seem welcoming at first, before dipping into deeper,
spookier textures. Yet the group frame their tails within enjoyable, well
crafted songs.

Recorded live in February of this year, Moon Over Georgia also works
well as a live disc. The group interject brief banter and allow crowd noises
to slip in, giving the album a warm and welcoming feel. Like the best
storyteller, Moonshine Still feed off their audience’s energy. Jumping from
Primus-like funk to cranky folk, Moonshine Still make their audiences move
quickly. But their jams use structure, and lyrics, to help sift through
sections, never losing the audience in the process. It’s an interesting
approach to a worn-out mix of styles and results in a fine collection of
eclectic songs.

An emotional listen, Moon Over Georgia runs through the mental gamut.
"Blue Moon" opens with a slow, meandering guitar riff before exploding into
joyous celebration. "Weeping Mother" is a spirited organ hymn that wraps a
sad tale in a theatrical blanket; using Gershwin-inspired melodrama to hide
personal loss. Similarly, "Sad Girl" takes a somewhat melancholy tale and
turns it into an introspective, but hopeful, piece of psychedelic pop. The
album’s caboose, "Shifty Shoeshine" is full of epic chords and late-night
textures, but also uses carefully thought out stories as its structure. In
general, Moon Over Georgia is an intriguing marriage between
front-porch storytelling and jamband energy — an interesting approach to
two road-worn styles.
Moon Over Georgia is the type of album a band recently named "New
Groove of the Month" should be proud of. It’s packed with all the essential
ingredients: impressive musicianship, intriguing stories, and a comfortable,
communal vibe. While the group will most likely venture into deeper, perhaps
more lyrically adventurous, pastures, Moon Over Georgia sits well.
And, in general, the group never remains too still beneath their porch’s

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