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Inside, THE Mr. Adam Granger of Prairie Home Companion’s original Powermilk Bisquet Band AND the author of the world famous “Granger’s Fiddle Tunes for Guitar” wrote our review.  He LIKES us!  He REALLY LIKES us!! 

And fellow old-timey playin’ and lovin’ writer Roxanne Bergeron did this in-depth (deep sea fishing) story about us.  Wow!  Thanks, Roxy!  We love interesting fish tales (you made ours that much more interesting).  :)

Wowie!  We scored the cover of the February 2011 issue of the Minnesota Bluegrass and Old-time Music Association’s monthly newsletter!  Woo-hoo!  Looka them fish!

Hear the ‘Pouts being interviewed (and playing) for Minnesota Public Radio’s “Radio Heartland!” 

February 2011

March 2011

Fish Radio!

(via the web)

Inside, THE Mr. Adam Granger of Prairie Home Companion’s original Powermilk Bisquet Band AND the author of the world famous “Granger’s Fiddle Tunes for Guitar” wrote our review.  He LIKES us!  He REALLY LIKES us!! 

Wowie!  Our second CD - “Waterbound” had a nice review in the Minnesota Bluegrass and Old-time Music Association’s monthly newsletter!  Woo-hoo!  Looka them fish!

Waterbound! The Eelpout Stringers

By Adam Granger

First, a disclaimer: I know this band; I’ve hired them to play contra dances since their inception in 2005, I’ve emceed festivals where they have appeared, and some of them have studied with me. Notwithstanding, I pledge accuracy and honesty in this review.

Naming one’s band after a fish as butt-ugly as the eelpout takes guts, and I don’t mean fish guts. If the band is lousy, people will say, “No wonder they call themselves The Eelpout Stringers—have you heard them?” And if the band is good, well, there’s still that strike-two eelpout image to overcome. And, mind you, these are reasonably nice looking fellows: visually, eelpouts are downward comparisons, although I won’t say by how much.

With the release of their second album, Waterbound!, the Stringers continue their trend of aquatic titling (if two titles can be a trend). This album is a little better than their first album, Rockin’ the Boat, which I reviewed in these pages four years ago. This is neither thinly veiled insult nor damning with faint praise: a little better is what one wants. A lot better would mean that the first album sucked, but no better would mean that there was no improvement so, like Goldilocks’ third bowl of porridge, a little better is just right.

The band sounds four more years like a band than it did four years ago, if you follow my syntax. This is significant, because the fishboys had already been together for half a decade when they recorded album number one, so it was more polished and together than a normal first album. The four musicians who make up the band, Loyd “Keeper” Mitchell on guitar, Karl “Gill” Burke on bass, Nick “Fin” Rowse on fiddle, and Craig “Bullhead” Evans on banjo, have all improved individually—tempos a little more even, vocals a little sweeter, grooves a little groovier—and thus, following some mathematical principle whose discussion I slept through in high school, the ensemble is a little better.

Bluegrass Renaissance man David Tousley works his engineering magic once again on Waterbound! If I had a nickel for every good album I’ve reviewed that has come from his Root Bass Records
studio . . . well, I wouldn’t be rich, but I’d have more than a quarter. I’ve come to trust that a Tousley-
produced album is going to be technically good. Waterbound! is recorded fairly dry (i.e., without much reverb), which is the old-timey way, creating a sound that is crisp but not brittle—golden toast but not zwieback. The guitar and bass are mixed just enough into the background for the fiddle and banjo to be two feet in front. And, to my ear, there was relatively little knob-twid-dling going on during the recording process, a nod to careful mic placement and good musicianship.

As was the case with Rockin’ the Boat, Waterbound! contains a pleasantly eclectic mix of acoustic string music. After a few dandy traditional fiddle tunes, the Stringers launch into Uncle Dave Macon’s “Grey Cat on the Tennessee Farm,” in the refrain of which the following couplet is found:

Big cat spittin’ in the little cat’s eye, Little cat, little cat, don’t you cry which exemplifies the problem with the good old days: oftentimes, the wrong entity was addressed with the wrong protocol. It was the big cat that should have been admonished, not the little one. Our realization of this today is proof that we’ve become a slightly better world.

Next comes the great northern tune “The Hangman’s Reel.” Then “Swannanoa Waltz,” a Rayna Gellert composition, demonstrates that the banjo can play a waltz, and Mitchell does a soulful job singing “St. James Hospital.”

Keeper, Gill, Fin, and Bullhead. Photo: Barry Moore

“Hunting the Buffalo,” a southern tune with Arkansas bones, proves, as the band’s liner notes state, that “meaningful, sensitive banjo is not an oxymoron,” and in “Darlin’ Come Dance with Me,” the boys salute the songwriter, dear, departed Deb Sorensen-Boeh, with beautiful vocals by Evans and Mitchell, and a fine Evans guitar solo as a bonus.

More swell tunes follow, and then the boys end up with, of all things, a fun, silly 1963 offering from The New Christy Minstrels, “I Was Born 100,000 Years Ago” (whose version is a tad cleaned up from original Oscar Brand/Cisco Houston incarnations).

It bespeaks the boys’ confidence in their trad music credentials that they’re comfortable closing with a song from a group that is, in the twenty-first century, more or less vilified by traditionalists. And the Minstrels aren’t alone on the gallows: also condemned are The Kingston Trio, The Chad Mitchell Trio, The Rooftop Singers, and all others of their ilk. Today, we know that their repertoire was suffused with unauthentic and derivative elements but, at the time, these groups provided an invaluable service by introducing us to music and instruments we would not otherwise have heard. Latter-day critics of these white bread bands don’t understand— or don’t remember—that in 1960 they were the only common access to genres we love today. While it’s true that the righteously authentic Pete Seeger and his sometime-group The Weavers were around, they were not recorded on major labels nor played on top-40 radio, and, in fact, were blacklisted and persecuted—and Seeger jailed for a time—for their political affiliations. Thus, the first “folk” banjoist I heard was not Pete Seeger, but Dave Guard, on the Kingston Trio’s hit, “Tom Dooley,” in 1958 and, although I now hear how rudimentary Dave Guard’s banjo playing was, it turned me on to the instrument and made me want to hear and learn more about it.

But enough about commie-sympa- thizing rabblerousers; let’s get back to The Eelpout Stringers. Waterbound! is a fine album. The band has just the right amount of tightness, the Mitchell/Burke rhythm section does yeoman duty, the banjo and fiddle sound great, the vocals are heartfelt and engaging and, maybe most importantly, The Eelpout Stringers sound like they had a good time recording this album. Would that that quality shined through on every album made.

Adam Granger is a Twin Cities writer, musician and guitar teacher. He’ll be touring the Caribbean with Garrison Keillor in March, Europe with Alan Munde and Dick Kimmel in May and, in June, he’ll be teaching and performing at the International Fiddle Camp in Manitoba.



What nice folks are sayin’ about us... without being paid. 

February 2015