Originally trading as Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams, they formed in New York back in 1998, lining up as frontman Joziah Longo, Tink Lloyd (accordion,cello), Sharkey McEwen (guitars, mandolin) and drummer Tony Zuzulo. Almost twenty years later, the only chance has been to see Felipe Torres take over the drum stool from Eric Puente, who replaced Zuzulo on 2012. Not much has changed musically either from when they were initially tagged as Hillbilly-Floyd, with liberal doses of the Grateful Dead, Dylan, Lennon, Young and Zappa.
In that time they've released six studio albums, though most were never released here until some while after America. This is a case in point. Having surfaced Stateside two years ago and until now only available on import. It's a sort of best of compendium, trawling tracks from four albums (there's nothing from 2013's "Folk!" or 2015's "Folk II", though these were both covers albums) as well as three previously unreleased numbers.
There's just one cut from the 1999 debut, "A Good Thief Tips His Hat", that being the slow, bluesy semi-spoken title track "Good Thief" where they actually call to mind early Bowie, the bulk coming from 2004 double album "Flapjacks In The Sky". These kick off with the swirly psychedelic folk-pop of "Rocket", a track featuring lyrical borrowings from "Winter Wonderland". From the same album comes the lysergic country Kristofferson meets Gram anthemics of "Sunday In The Rain", the Byrdsian jangle of the infectious, chorus friendly, tumbling "Living With God" and, driven by acoustic guitar, the near ten minute slow bluesy storysong "Talking To The Buddah" with its reference to Nirvana playing on the jukebox.
Moving up the years to 2008, "The Great Unravel" yields three numbers, "Tink (I Know It's You)", Longo's Celtic hued folk blues love song to his wife, featuring Seth Gallagher on uillean pipes, a folksy waltzing "Pushing Up Daisies" and the Cat Stevens touches of the gentle acoustic "Light A Way".
The remaining three previously released tracks come from 2011's "The Grand Slambovians", their most commercial outing to date, from which you get the gently rolling "Lost Highway" is an Americana Velvets, the foot tapping early REM pop sensibilities of the bounce along "Very Happy Now", and the witty named ringing, train-chugging "The Trans-Slambovian BiPolar Express", which is what you might get if Neil Diamond fronted the Heartbreakers and played slide guitar.
On then to the new numbers, first up being the soaring love song title track, followed by the rather quirkier oompah merry go round sound of "A Very Unusual Head", another hint of early Bowie (and a lyrical nod to Mary Poppins) and apparently intended as the title track of their next studio album. The third, hidden away as the bonus track, is "Alligators", an eight minute Floydian epic featuring trumpet, clarinet, upright bass and organ as well as a bluesy guitar solo, that, judging by its time go now but we had a lot of fun, sounds like their end of show number, and, in true magpie fashion, ends with a steal of the na na na, na na na nap layout from "Hey Jude".
Nowhere near as well known as they deserve to be, this serves as a useful introduction for the uninitiated and , touring the UK through June, should hopefully attract curious newcomers to join the already converted to experience their electrifying live performance.
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