The Builders & the Butchers and O’Death

odeath1I’ve been in the midst of one of those beautiful periods recently when the discovery of one band leads to another then another. My infatuation with Murder by Death prompted me to dig into two of their recent opening bands; The Builders and the Butchers, and O’Death. There’s nothing better than discovering someone new that you know no one else has heard of. I love paying it forward and handing my new discoveries off to everyone I know, and these are a couple of gems.

Both bands belong in the same genre; trouble is I’m not sure what genre it is. It’s punk rock-Americana-bluegrass-murder-ballad-mariachi-Eastern-European-etc-etc-etc. You get the picture. Totally uncatagorizable. Think the Violent Femmes with Jello Biafra on vocals; or Social Distortion with fiddles and banjos. How the Hell do you put a label on something like that? And why would you want to? That’s half the fun!

If Murder by Death is the modern incarnation of Johnny Cash, then the Builders and the Butchers are the same, but of Jimmy Rodgers. I was immediately reminded of the first time I heard the Violent Femme’s Country Death Song. I had to stop and reassess everything that I thought I knew about my tastes in music. Their style takes Appalachian mountain music, and combines it with New Orleans funeral march, and layers on a cool modern edge.These songs about floods and coal mines could have been written at the turn of the last century, but at the same time sound totally relevant right now.

I wrote briefly about O’Death some months ago but let me recap. Here’s the visual; fronted by a lead singer that could be a missionary from a Russian Orthodox church and a fiddle player that’s straight out of Deliverance, and the rhythm section is comprised of 2 guys from an Iron Maiden tribute band. Here again; like nothing I’ve ever seen before. They have a similar mix of influences, but O’Death throws in a whopping helping of Eastern European folk music for good measure.

Banjos, fiddles, mandolins, accordions, trumpets, tambourines; they’re both like a middle-school music class from Hell. They’ll play any damn thing you put in front of them. Much of the drumming sounds like someone wrapped a piece of leather around a cardboard box. The high-hat and tambourines sound more like someone rattling a pile of rusty chains. When I close my eyes sometimes I see bearded men, dressed in black home-made suits, sitting around someones living room making music. Sometimes I see a bunch of shit-kickers in the back of a pick-up truck, in the middle of a field. Sometimes I see the house-band in a dusty western saloon. There are just too many influences to count or keep track of. They all crash together in a beautiful mess.

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~ by spinthis45 on April 6, 2009.

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