My cousin Jason Hoffman give me this here John Minton disc called Going Back To Vicksburg (and a player ‘cause papa ain’t seen fit to replace the eight-track yet) an’ asked fer my opinion. As far as I kin reckin’, I likes it a lot! I guess this John Minton is some high-fallutinÇ college guy with another album out, but there ain’t none of that college shine here. Nope, it’s just an hour of good old-fashioned hill music.
I think when my cuz gave me this album he said somethinÇ’bout roots rock or bluegrass or folk or somethin’, an’ I guess the college guy has some fancy terms for each type of song. but to me it just sounds like down home music: warm an’ comforting an’ familiar. Like “Midnight on the Water.” It’s quiet with mostly acoustic guitar, accordion, an’ some hushed vocals an’ makes you, well, makes you feel like yer in a boat at midnight with the stars up high above you anÇ a freighter far away that you can see its lights but can’t hear the engines.
If I ever meet that John Minton I’ll be sure to thrash him good fer two songs that stuck in my head for a good long time. “Big Star Is Falling” is sweet and simple, kinda like a love song, ‘cept he’s singing about his mama so I hope it’s not a love song. “Down Along The Brazos” is the other one, this time with accordion, which I’m sure my squeezebox-fingerin’ cuz liked. This one seems all the more light-hearted because it follows one of the dark songs, “Son James & Mooney,” which I thought first was a fancy law firm but is instead a long (seven minutes) story about a doomed moonshine runner. It’s full of smoky sounds an’ murky atmosphere. Minton makes his voice sound like granpa’s old radio on “The Wild Ox Moan,” which ain’t about an ox at all but is another subued and spooky song about evil things like shawls and parasols and lyrics like “Back in the garden of Eden / The snake took on the throne / Up on the levy / The devil takes his own.” To cap it all off, this Johnny ends his album with a cheery song about Hell: “The Hell Bound Train.” It’s got some chugging bass an’ is almost a celebration, ending with a sparse but nifty electric guitar solo.
As I understand it, ol’ man Minton plays most of the instruments, including guitars, bass, accordion, lap steel, organ and drums, plus singing. I think my cousin was joking when he said he kin play them all at once, but maybe this professor can. Joining him are Dave Kartholl on the mandolin an’ bowed bass plus The Flying Suraci, some kind of UFO marriage cult whose members, Rob and Susie, sing some great old-timey vocal harmonies. Whereas my kin used to gather in the barn to shake the fiddles, I guess it wasn’t good enough for Mr. College, so he went to Tempel Recording Studio to ply his trade, which I guess was good in the end ‘cause you can hear better on this album than when Uncle Filibuster is fixin’ the thresher the same time everyone else is tryin’ to play. I liked Going Back to Vicksburg and think you would too.
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July 21 • Sweetwater Performace Pavilion