Kings of Mongrel Folk
The Kings of MongrelFolk display their wide-ranging talents on this release. Mark Graham is a widely hailed humorous songwriter and a harmonica wizard. Orville Johnson is known for his rich vocals, sharp guitar and dobro picking and record production skills. When they get together for a recording, it inevitably ends up dripping with soul and hilarity ensues! Great songs, hot playing and soulful singing in a genre-bending effort that can only be called MongrelFolk at it's finest! Sing Out says: My dictionary defines mongrel as 'a cross between different breeds, groups or varieties.' With traces of bluegrass, jazz, blues and folk, this album seems to qualify. Actually, five of the 14 tracks are written by Mark Graham, one of the most original and hilarious songwriters around, and they'd be reason enough to own this recording. Because it's been covered by other singers, the best known Graham song here might be Their Brains Were Small, a hilarious comparison between dinosaurs and humans. But I was equally delighted with Last Words, the ultimate description of sibling rivalry, wherein a dying man's brother asks him, 'Could I have all your stuff when you're dead?' And I roared over Graham's wild ode to Oedipus Rex (You killed your Pa and you married your Ma/They don't even do that in Arkansas) Orville Johnson has a couple of fine originals here, too: Blueprint for the Blues and Wnen Love Has Gone Away . The rest of the album ranges from a Sleepy John Estes blues and Stormy Weather to an outlaw ballad by Norman Blake and Allen Toussaint's Freedom for the Stallion. Except for one guest guitar spot by John Miller, Graham and Johnson do all the singing and instrumentation. Graham is a justly famed harmonica player and he shines throughout the album (including his instrumental showcase Hoof n' Mouth); he also does a great job with clarinet on some songs. Johnson multi-tracks excellent guitar, dobro, mandolin and percussion besides doing most of the lead vocals (except on the Graham originals.) Overall, this is an entertaining collection of diverse material, performed with taste and skill, and boosted by the inspired nuttiness of Graham's songs. Dirty Linen says: On this lively CD, quirky songwriter ,Open House member, and harmonica/clarinet whiz Mark Graham is paired with guitarist/roducer Orville Johnson for a fine program of originals and covers like Stormy Weather and Sleepy John Estes' Everybody Ought to Change. The overall effect is that of an eclectic, laid-back jug band with two rather different front people (hence the 'Mongrel Folk' moniker). Johnson is a laid-back bluesman, while Graham appears as a comic crooner. The blend of styles works nicely, whether on a harp instrumental like Hoof n' Mouth, a country ballad like Norman Blake's Billy Gray or one of Johnson's bluesy originals like When Love Has Gone Away. The real treats here, though, are Graham's witty numbers such as Oedipus Rex (Greek tragedy hoedown) Neighbor of the Beast ( a gospel ballad detailing the travails of the guy whose street address is 667) and the oft-covered evolutionary fable Their Brains Were Small and They Died.