By Russ Tarby The nine tracks on The Gonstermachers' new disc, "Crushing Gift," resonate like cinematic tone poems, setting a scene, telling a story and leaving the listener shivering in the shadows, shuddering in rhythm with the echoes. "Charlemagne" opens the CD with guest Mark Nanni's swirling organ flourishes introducing a kingdom fallen to dissolution, awash in awkward war-making and plagued by crows. On "Come to Life No More," songwriter Leo Crandall's ruminates in Venice over the fragility of faith and fidelity. And on "All of Heaven's Fallin' Rain" hate and guilt play a mean-spirited tug-of-war over "the beatings we took and gave." Compelling cuts The disc's two most compelling cuts, "Effamira's Tango" and "Bushmeat," draw upon Latin inflections and primitive tribal sounds, respectively. "Effamira's Tango" has guest accordionists Bob Alexander and Nanni dueling delicately over the lusty South American one-step and the dirty Jersey Crawl. The otherworldly "Bushmeat," on the other hand, is a minor-key, double entendre rocker characterized by call-and-responses by guest singers Bill Harsma and Natasha Jack, eerie vocatron effects and cackling laughter at lyrics like this:. "Quiverin' liver an' a slitherin' snail/ Doglog banging on the bushmeat trail." Propelling the song's music are Curtis Waterman's well-placed harmonica blasts, guest Rodney Zajac's booming baritone sax and Nanni's organ punctuations over the incessant rhythms of Hymie Witthoft's percussion and Richard Curry's washtub bass. Offbeat instruments Since Gonstermachers songwriter Leo Crandall has previously composed scores for stage plays and film projects, it should come as no surprise that the tracks on the band's new disc, "Crushing Gift," each functions as a separate scene and set piece, each creating the aural ambiance of it's song's story. Not only does Crandall give strong voice to his often diaphanous lyrics, he also embellishes the tunes with his offbeat instruments: cello, small-scale requinto guitar, lap steel, a ukelele-like marxolin complete with bow, hammers and whammy bar as well as his less-unusual solid-body electric guitar. While the band's self-titled 2006 debut disc put a new twist to the blues, "Crushing Gift" merely hints at those roots. The instrumental "Baby, Get over It," composed jointly by all four G-Men, is the only truly bluesy tune here, followed by a short and stark man-done-left-me number by Crandall called "And Your Devil is Comin.'" Local vocalist Mark Gibson adds some plaintive shouting on "John the Revelator" before Crandall caps things off with "Crushing Gift" and it's first line: "Like the voice of a bird in a sky full of rain." Crandall's lowdown, gritty voice, which recalls Tom Waits and Captain Beefheart at their best, well suits his brooding lyrics. And this disc, artfully produced by Mick Walker, Crandall and Mike Fierce, is like nothing else you've ever heard recorded in CNY. Saturday at Shifty's The Gonstermachers make what could be their last local performance in the band's original incarnation at a CD release party for "Crushing Gift," at 10 p.m. Saturday Sept. 20, at Shifty's Tavern, 1401 Burnet Ave. The quartet features guitarist/cellist Leo Crandall, harmonica master Curtis Waterman, washtub bassist Richard Curry and drummer Hymie Witthoft. Witthoft is moving out of town soon, and it won't be easy to replace him when he splits. On the new disc, he plays not only the trap set but gongs, castanets, bongos, war drums and Camerounian tambour. TWO SIDE-BARS 'Shaken free' Effamira jerks her head side to side, shaking her raven hair from her face. As she sits in the back of Myrtle's black Ford, Effamira ignites a cigarette with a bejeweled lighter and takes a long, slow drag. She remembers gliding along a shiny dancefloor with her men in their tuxedos. She tugs at the arms of her velvet bodice, and in a flash, she's out of the car and into the wind and rain, disrobing, dancing like a Druid. Sound like a scene from an old film noir or maybe a pre-code silent? You can sense that violence lurks just beyond the celluloid, that our heroine is bound for a bad end, that smoke and fog become one along with rainwater and red blood. So starts "Effamira's Tango" (previously titled "Dancing in the Rain"), one of Leo Crandall's intriguing exercises in imagism and rhythm on The Gonstermachers' new CD, "Crushing Gift." "The rain is running down the bone of her neck. She feels it soaking through her sleeve./ The rain is running down the flesh of her back and Effamira's shaken free, shaken free." Hip shots The Gonstermachers' name is derived from the German "Gantseh Macher," which means "big shot." In Yiddish, the word is "gonstermacher," a "big man." In late-2003 multi-instrumentalist Leo Crandall formed The Gonstermachers along with three like-minded musicians culled from Syracuse's vibrant blues community. Harmonica player Curtis Waterman and drummer Hymie Witthoft had both played for the Westcott Jug Suckers and other blues groups. Washtub bass player Richard Curry had labored in less-visible outfits such as the West Nile Marching Band. "I believe my musical uniqueness fits in well with the uniqueness of the group," Curry said. "Where else would you see a cello and a tub bass together, both amplified with effects?" You heard him right. He said cello. Crandall often whips out the big four-string for tunes by Robert Johnson, James Brown, Louis Armstrong and his own original compositions. Veteran Central New York entertainer Jerry Cali describes the quirky quartet as "potent, edgy and hip." The quartet's initial disc was nominated for a 2006 Syracuse Area Music Award in the blues recording category. In 2007 that CD was nominated for a Blue Star award in Australia.