This on-line album release is a brilliant highpoint of Curtis Eller’s unique output since his turn of the Millennium album “1890”. It’s also his career’s bravest artistic leap. His doleful underdog tales and his happy tendency to break out in circus acrobat moves on stage have arrived at some kind of glorious crescendo. Cross-disciplinary collaboration and a full (top rate) band means that we have a choreographed theatre show, videos, and a studio album of eight cracking songs in one explosion of intense creativity. Rather than catalogue it all here, I refer you to the richly detailed Bandcamp site here:
Curtis Eller Bandcamp page
Over the years leading up to this we have seen Curtis stand on one leg on a high wobbling stool (yodelling and picking his banjo as he goes). We have seen his banjo-defying high kicks in very small places and we have laughed and cried at his jokes and wry comments. Now, with a crew of equally talented people joining in around him we can see something that absolutely demands your immediate and prolonged attention. There’s a lot of old Curtis still in there (praise be) but when you first listen to the album (and you must) do prepare to be challenged, excited, moved, puzzled, delighted, confused and even dazed phased or bewildered. (as Woody Guthrie might have said). The dance presentation and the videos are intrinsic. The music is exciting – but the full offering demands your full attention to as much of the work as you can cram in. It’s high art, so raise your sights. You will love it.
Curtis has been working with dancer/choreographer/vocalist Stacy Wolfson (she’s a star) and a whole new company (collectively known as “The Bipeds”). He has taken a big step into dreaming the magical and mysterious world just beyond awareness. It’s more than bold. It’s brilliant.
Also see: The Bipeds onlinefor access to the videos.
The songs (yours for a mere $8) stand and can be confidently purchased on their own merit as a distinctive album of important contemporary Americana. They combine folkish weird-America themes and Eller’s own emotional rage. There are hints of mummery, gargoyle extremes and gothic obsessions. There are thrilling vocal harmonies and extreme banjo contortions. Murder and savagery lurk in the shadows of shredded memory. It’s a life-saver anyone stifled with contemporary outpourings of the cute, the bland and the banal. Cunning old Curtis hasn’t lost his ear for a tune either, so fear not. Banjo sets the tone and the key: great percussion, turntable wizardry, beautiful vocal passages, upright bass, birdsong and unnamed mysteries, orchestrated with style and grace.