Par Eric Thom www.penguineggs.ab.ca
► There have been many flashbacks of late to the days when jug bands were the cat’s meow of the ’30s and ’40s. Yet few get it like Livingstone and his serious six-piece, who rely on homemade instruments for authenticity. All the more surprising that this talented finger-style guitarist hails from north of the 49th–he sounds like he hails from the Appalachians. In fact he’s been weaned on country blues and western swing, which shows across this too-short collection of nine tracks–which visit everyone from Merle Travis to John Fahey, Fred McDowell to Arthur (Blind) Blake. Other instrumentation comes from Julia Narveson and her washboard bass, Brad Levin on washboard, Colin Perry on lead guitar and tenor banjo while Dom Desjardins and Jérome Dupuis-Cloutier chime in on Travis’s I Like My Chicken Frying Size with tenor banjo and trumpet, respectively. All contribute vocal harmonies but Livingstone’s lead goes a long way towards gluing the package together, with a voice reminiscent of Tim Buckley’s.
The production on this disc is superb and the shimmering sound of the strings on songs such as 61 Highway and Chump Man Blues is beyond pleasurable. The fun and lively nature of their playing style, delivering on the genre’s pre-swing rhythms, ranges from lazy-paced (Rag Mama Rag) to frenetic (Done Left Here), with Livingstone delivering hyper-slide as the others dig in. Fahey’s Last Steam Engine Train is one of five highlight tracks yet the entire collection flawlessly demonstrates the appeal of the genre in the first place, adding to the sensation considerably.