Eugene Chadbourne: Worms with Strings
Well, the world may or may not be ready for a musical celebration of fecal worms, but Eugene Chadbourne certainly is, and when Eugene Chadbourne is ready for something, he has long since ceased to wait for any sign of approval or readiness from the populace. For all his joyful eccentricity, Chadbourne is a first-rate instrumentalist, and this disc displays his talents well. As he plays guitar, banjo, and various other things, he's joined here in ensembles, live and multi-tracked, consisting of George Cremaschi, Brent Dunn, Bob Jordan, Carla Kihlstedt, the peerless mandolin player Barry Mitterhof, Ted Reichman, Brian Ritchie, Charles Rosina, Leslie Ross, Rik Rue, Carrie Shull, and Tony Trischka.
Unlike the music of, say, the Jazz Mandolin Project, this music doesn't attempt to fit new instruments into jazz forms. Occasionally it is abstract and searching; sometimes it approaches bluegrass grooves. Some of it ("Loa Loa," "The Waterstriders") had some of the microtonal string flavor of Harry Partch. Ted Reichman plays some gorgeous piano on "Song for My Ant Lion." Much of it seems to have been recorded by Chadbourne on a porch in Greensboro, North Carolina, and the recording has a kind of verité feel that sometimes reminded me of old field recordings of Mississippi John Hurt or Blind Lemon Jefferson. You can ever hear birds singing now and then.
Here's to Chadbourne. This is raw and mostly effective music; not for everyone, perhaps, but powerful stuff just the same.