I’m a firm believer in the sanctity of marriage: that a man and woman should join together with a college professor of their choice in order to make beautiful music. Well, I suppose that is not the prescribed path but in the case of The Possum Trot Orchestra, consisting of husband and wife duo The Flying Suraci and folk guitarist John Minton, I think I can make an exception.
Before hearing their self-titled debut album I’m not sure I could have imagined how well these two parties would combine. I mean, Rob and Susie Suraci write mature pop-rock songs with a stirring 70s vibe, and Minton croons modern Americana songs that could easily belong to a timeless generation. But both use a variety of traditional folk instruments to round out their song, and both create songs heavily steeped in cheerful melancholy and bright regret. As it turns out there isn’t a lot of melting in this pot, as the album alternates between songs from Minton and songs from Suraci, each obviously betraying its author in style, even if one didn’t have the overt clue of Susie singing the Suraci songs and Minton singing his own. For those who have waited far too long for more Suraci songs or who eagerly anticipate more Minton material, this matters little for the end result is more great songs!
Minton turns in a number of strong tracks. “Just A Little Farther” is quiet and stark, with Susie’s vocals adding just the right ambiance, while “It’s Alright” finds Minton rocking out with gravel in his voice and an excellent guitar solo from Rob. With just acoustic guitar, accordion and bass, the tranquil “Stephen C. Foster’s Blues” is an instant classic, exhibiting Minton’s trademark storytelling lyrics. Of special interest is the ghostly yet catchy “The Baltimore Caper,” where a touch of 1930s jazz infects some impressive guitar work and catchy background vocals.
The Suracis come to the forefront in “Homebody,” the first of five songs of nostalgic yearning. Here tight vocal harmonies and a solid guitar solo accompany the tale of a woman left at home for yet another night. “Over You” is perhaps the best melding of styles, as a pop melody is backed by a light wash of banjo, accordion and mandolin for a wonderful folk-pop sound while Susie sings “Here I am with another man / who’s bound to break my heart / No sense but common sense says ‘Leave this one alone.’” Rob plays piano and guitar in “Want Me,” a beautifully aching song about a relationship what has grown too comfortable with a bright musical interlude offering a ray of hope. In “Come Straight Home” we find a bouncy bass beat, a perfectly plunked banjo, and a sizzling guitar solo accompanying a clever chorus of “Why are you taking your time? / Why are you making detours instead of beelines?”
Hopefully future albums will allow Rob more room to play - he’s an excellent guitarist, but for much of the album he’s relegated to playing bass (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Even if these musical mavens haven’t yet fully integrated their sounds, the inspiration each gives the other is a bonus for fans of music that will stand the test of time. In any case, The Possum Trot Orchestra has given birth to a thoroughly enjoyable collections of songs. Let’s raise a toast to many more years of merry music making and a huge litter of children.
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