RED CLAY RAMBLERS "Merchants Lunch" CD mlbig.jpg - 19010 Bytes

(personnel: Mike Craver - piano, Jack Herrick - bass and trumpet, Bill Hicks - fiddle, Tommy Thompson - banjo, Jim Watson - mandolin and bass)

"Nobody else in the country could make an album as big and broad and sweet and loud."
---Garrison Keillor

This CD combined all the songs from both the Merchants Lunch and Twisted Laurel LPs

songs: Blue Jay/The Girl I Left Behind Me, Twisted Laurel, The Hobo's Last Letter, Mississippi Delta Blues, The Telephone Girl, Will You Miss Me, The Ace, The Corrugated Lady, When Bacon Was Scarce, Fifty Miles of Elbow Room, Flying Cloud Cotillion, The Beale Street Blues , Merchants Lunch, A Beefalo Special, Woman Down in Memphis, Molly Put the Kettle On, Milwaukee Blues, Melancholy , Rabbit in the Pea Patch, I've Got Plans , Daniel Prayed, Forked Deer, Henhouse Blues, Sweet and Slow
(The instrumental trio of Kildare's Fancy/Ships Are Sailing/High Yellow, which was included in the original MERCHANTS LUNCH LP, was not included on this CD reissue.)

"Standing at a crossroads of old-timey music and the kind of progressive thought patterns and creativity that emerge in college towns such as the band's home base of Chapel Hill, the Red Clay Ramblers created a discography that is as much about making records as it is making music. The two biggest influences on this project seem to be the culturally rich results of pioneer recording efforts in American music in the '20s and '30s and the much later explosion of musical creativity in the '60s, when every garage band got to make a big artistic statement. As much as Twisted Laurel would never have been possible without old-time hillbilly music, it also could not exist without the example of albums such as the Band's Music From Big Pink or the refined album efforts of John Prine. It is a meticulously crafted piece of work which, if anything, could use a bit more looseness and edge in its occasional stuffy moments. Sometimes the good-timey numbers will prompt a listener to turn the volume down; it can be just too much hyper energy, despite the brilliance of the recorded sound. Yet the band seems to know when to pull back, following up the overdone pseudo-swing of "The Corrugated Lady" with a marvelous solo vocal and fiddle tour de force by Bill Hicks. The instrumental numbers such as "Flying Cloud Cotillon" are masterful, the piano playing of Mike Craver an absolute delight. The recording date is listed as 1967 on some copies of the album; however, be assured that even the nervous Flying Fish label wouldn't have waited nearly a decade to release this."

The first track establishes the ground rules for this record featuring the classic lineup of the Red Clay Ramblers, with both pianist Mike Craver and the superb fiddler Bill Hicks. "Merchant's Lunch" is one of several originals that banjoist and vocalist Tommy Thompson either wrote or co-wrote for the project, and these songs reveal a deepening of the group's repertoire. For old-time music fanatics, this might have been the cause of discomfort, but it certainly can be said that the group created a terrific blend of its different material for this baker's dozen of tracks. Listeners looking for old-time numbers that kick up a rumpus will be able to dig right into "Molly Put the Kettle On" and Uncle Dave Macon's outrageous "Rabbit in the Pea Patch," although in the latter case the Red Clay Ramblers push a good thing by folding in too-cute diggi-diggi-di vocals of the sort Doug Kershaw used to come up with. The album is a luscious studio recording, with the fiddle tune medley on the second side one of the best-sounding tracks of this sort the group has ever recorded.** The blend of mandolin, banjo, fiddle, bass, and piano is as rich as the aroma of a simmering stew that has had the benefit of a gourmet cook sprinkling spices into it. Group vocals are another aspect that shine on this production. "I've Got Plans" is an ambitious Thompson ballad that gets a nicely relaxed treatment, its profound effect on the flow of music providing a good example of the treasury this group had going in terms of repertoire. "Henhouse Blues" begins with exciting clawhammer banjo, followed by expert fiddle and mandolin solos. Many listeners will be up dancing even before the vocal comes in. In other words, a typical moment with the Red Clay Ramblers."

-------Eugene Chadborne, ALL MUSIC GUIDE

PDF scores are available for "Blue Jay/The Girl I Left Behind Me", "Daniel Prayed", "The Ace", "Melancholy", and "Merchants Lunch" at SAPSUCKER SCORES