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Eugene Weekly : Music : 9.23.10




Singin’, Dancin’, Pickin’ and Grinnin’

The band’s name brings a smile to the face of everyone who hears it. That wink-inducing moniker may be one reason that Eugene voted The Conjugal Visitors the Best Acoustic Act in EW’s 2008-09 readers’ poll, but it’s certainly not the only reason. Eugeneans love the band’s music, a “unique mix of mountain dance music, bluegrass, jazz, old-time country and jug/folk,” as their press release describes it. 

The Visitors have wrapped up a busy summer playing on the festival circuit from northern Washington to southern Oregon, playing at the Northwest Folklife Festival, Oregon Country Fair, Cougar Mountain Tayberry Jam and the brand new Beavergrass Festival, among others.  Now they’re ready to celebrate the release of their new CD, The Gang’s All Here. Their third CD includes eight original songs by the Rev. Jesse Lawton (mandolin and vocals) and M.D. “Moz” Elsworth (vocals and guitar) and an instrumental number by singer and fiddler Chip Cohen, who is well-known as an accomplished old-timey bluegrass fiddler. 

Unlike the naughty nudge of the name, the music is (mostly) good clean fun, with some laugh-out-loud moments about singing in the bathtub and drinking a bottle of liquor down to the dregs. Each of these nine tracks shows just how vocally and musically polished this trio is, and, no doubt, why Weekly readers vaulted them to the top of the musical heap. Here’s to many more years of singin’, dancin’, pickin’ and grinnin’ by “the gang.” The Conjugal Visitors play at 9:30 pm Friday, Sept. 24, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+. $5. — Vanessa Salvia



Quirky Damn Band

As musical ensembles go, Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band is actually pretty small — there are three members — but what the Big Damn Band lacks in members, it makes up for in spirit(s). Leading what’s essentially a jug band without the jug, the Reverend Peyton shouts quirky, incomprehensibly tongue-in-cheek lyrics about the old standards (women and whiskey) while he, Breezy Peyton and Aaron Persinger employ everything from accordion to kazoo to washboard in service of the loose, lively blues tunes in which they specialize. All this might imply that the BDB is little more than a barn-raising party band, but the Big Damn Band tackles less superficial topics, too: This year’s release The Wages addresses the woes of financially strapped Americans everywhere, as the chorus of “Everything’s Raising” proves (“Everything’s raising but the wages”). Some people go to church to get into the spirit; others go to Reverend Peyton shows. No contest here. Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band and Larry and His Flask play at 8 pm Sunday, Sept. 26, at the WOW Hall. $10 adv., $12 door. — Sara Brickner



Trance-formation Jam

EOTO’s nothing like you’ve ever seen or heard before.  Last year they trance-formed WOW Hall into a psychedelic pleasure dome with their “livetronica” dance music.  If you’re unfamiliar with these two guys (Jason Hann on the drums and Michael Travis on the bass and MacBooks) then take note. Travis and Hann are both members of the String Cheese Incident, a modern jam band out of Colorado that’s currently on touring hiatus while members focus on different side projects.  But where SCI tends more towards the proggy bluegrass and roots side of things, EOTO found its inspiration in U.K. dubstep artist Skream and later in watching acts like Bassnectar.

Since everything is improvised, edited and looped on the spot, the sound can shift from hard-hitting dub to djembe-driven African dance in a single measure. Content, mood, genre and theme are just as likely to move and sway as the entranced audience, and are all subject to Travis and Hann’s tuning. Observing an EOTO performance is also a visual and social experiment as well.  Where crowds usually all shove to the front of the stage to ogle some uber-eccentric front man, at EOTO shows most everyone is spaced out civilly across the dance hall.  Travis and Hann just sit at the control towers and “Fire the Lazers!!!” EOTO, MiMOSA and MartyParty play at 9 pm Thursday, Sept. 30, at the WOW Hall. $18 adv., $20 door. — Andrew Hitz



Campy Country Carll 

There are a lot of singer-songwriters out there who, after “discovering” Townes Van Zandt, decided to adopt a little bit of twang in hopes of fooling us into thinking they’re writing country songs now. It’s like when cowboy boots were really in — you knew most of the people wearing ’em got theirs at Buffalo Exchange and couldn’t tell you what the difference is between a bridle and a bit. Not to criticize unjustly — country music fans are often late bloomers — and yet, this is why Hayes Carll is getting so much attention. With him, it’s neither act nor affectation. Like a Stetson hat or a pair of high-waisted Wrangler jeans, Carll is the real deal, and while he’s not a holy roller (thank God), like all true country musicians, he occasionally crosses the line between campy and hokey. That’s OK, though, because Carll also doesn’t cater to the cynical whims of the indie set who only like country as long as it’s been pasteurized and imbued with a healthy dose of cynicism and (sigh) irony. There’s nothing half-assed or ironic about Carll’s music, and that’s why it’s so refreshing. It’s also why Carll went from self-releasing his second record to signing to Lost Highway Records, the Universal subsidiary that currently hosts two of country music’s biggest Ryans (Adams and Bingham), for his third. Hayes Carll and Bonnie Whitmore play at 9 pm Wednesday, Sept. 29, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+. $8. —  Sara Brickner



Classy, Funky, Bluesy Americana

Railroad Earth is the ideal band to take with you on a camping trip. It would be hard to pinpoint the band’s exact genre — think bluegrass plus drums and amplifiers — but Railroad Earth’s sound is comforting, like returning home after a long journey. The band’s musical style ranges from upbeat Americana to something more like classic rock; “Seven Story Mountain,” from the 2006 release Elko (Dig), has a ballad quality to it. Singer-songwriter Todd Sheaffer’s lyrics muse over the path he has chosen in his life: “The road that led me here has begun to disappear / sometimes I wonder where I am.” In contrast, “Elko,” from the same album, is a funky, bluesy song with a strong, steady rhythm and a catchy chorus. 

This six-piece assembly originates from New Jersey, and includes vocalist and songwriter Sheaffer plus an eclectic group of skilled musicians — Tim Carbone, John Skehan, Andy Goessling, Andrew Altman and Carey Harmon — who play everything from accordion and mandolin to pennywhistle and saxophones. 

Since their formation in 2001, Railroad Earth has steadily released an album every couple of years. Their newest, self-titled album comes out October 12, and is a diverse collection that includes ballads, funk, waltzes and folk. Railroad Earth plays at 7:30 pm Sunday, Sept. 26, at the McDonald Theatre. $19 adv., $24 door. — Catherine Foss