Friday, November 20, 2009

Album Review: The Lost Boys, "Rogues In A Nation"--Renaissance Rock!

Way back in 2006 when I was stationed at Ft. Benning, I went with some friends to the Georgia Renaissance Festival and it was there that I discovered one of the most entertaining and creative bands I've ever heard: The Lost Boys. They present themselves as "the original rock band from 1599," and typically wear their characteristic performing outfits of teal kilts. (At least once per show they mock the men in the audience as a bunch of "lads in pants.") Their music is a mixture of original material, Shakespeare texts set to original tunes, renditions of Renaissance-era songs, modernized versions of Renaissance songs, and parodies of popular music with Renaissance-type lyrics. The group has undergone a few personnel changes over the years but consistently relies on the leadership of guitarist/fiddler/vocalist Matthew Trautwein.

In one of my earlier posts I reviewed another Trautwein project, the Karma Lingo release "Breath of God." Four members of Karma Lingo made up the original Lost Boys lineup that in 2001 produced their first CD, "Rogues In A Nation." Naturally, in keeping with the fanciful nature of the band, the members all play characters in addition to playing music. Trautwein plays String, so called because of his predilection for playing multiple stringed instruments. Kelley Yearout is Clarence the Destroyer, guitarist and tenor vocalist. Charles Holmes portrays Johnny Ozbourne, who sings and plays bass. The group's drummer and fourth vocalist is Michael Starr, played by Michael Guss. Along for the ride is Merlin (Perry Rintye), whose magic allows for the use of modern drums and electric guitars on certain tracks.

The opening title track is derived from a Robert Burns poem about the percieved treachery that led to the union of Scotland and England in 1707. The LB's perform it with harmonized singing against the pounding and thumping of frame drums. "The Diamond" showcases Clarence as well as the energy that can be produced with all-acoustic instrumentation. After Merlin makes an appearance, the group performs a String original, "Little Gypsy," that sound like something the Beatles would have done were they a Renaissance-fair band. String's "Maidens Sing! (with Johnny on lead)," "Wake Up Sleepy Town" and Michael's "True Love of Mine" (with outstanding vocals from Michael and Clarence) are other fine originals on this recording. Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona provides the lyric for String's "Who Is Sylvia?" This track, entirely a capella, is one of my favorites on the recording, both beautiful and mysterious. String also has a vocal and guitar setting of Shakespeare's poem "As It Fell Upon a Day." The Boys share vocal turns on an original rocker, "Lazy Susan," that takes a particular joy in the art of the near-double-entendre: "Sally is a chambermaid, we love to watch her strip....the dirty linens off the bed..." The group's vocal prowess is again showcased on "serious" tunes like the traditional "Burning of Auchindown" and the playful "I Love You." The album closes with two parodies: "Ode to an Unfetter'd Fowl" opens with a four-part harmony setting of Lynyrd Skynyrd's ubiquitous "Free Bird," and the Knack's "My Sharona" is altered to tell the events of Shakespeare's Othello in "Desdemona." (Be sure to listen for the quiet, sneaky verse at the end.)

Word has it that the group is in the process of modifying the original disc, replacing the parodies with new material to end some legal hassles. Copies of the original can still be found at CDBaby or a live performance, so get one while you can! I highly recommend this disc as an introduction to the group. Not only is the performance and production excellent, but it is a whole lot of fun. Check out the band's website for the latest news on their performances and recordings. More to follow in future blogs....

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