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CD Review: Holy Modal Rounders 1 & 2

Posted by Stev187 on Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Holy Modal Rounders: 1 & 2
The Holy Modal Rounders (1964)

Real world, real world, real real real world.
Real world, real world, real real world.
World world world world, real real real world
World world world world, real real world.

The first "old-time" recording I remember hearing was "Bully of the Town" by Peter Stampfel and Steve Weber, aka The Holy Modal Rounders.  That's when it all started.  I was working at Elderly and when I heard this record, it was all over.  I just kept going deeper and deeper.  This irreverant, drug-induced, hilarious recording truly changed my life.

I must admit that I've always enjoyed a sprig of humor with my fiddle tunes and songs.  This music is supposed to be fun, right?  Music that is too damn serious just gets me down sometimes.  I can just picture these Greenwich Village kids spinning Harry Smith's Anthology, tripping on God-knows-what and jamming to the wee hours.

The new version of this CD has an unreleased take of "Sugar in the Gourd" which is just fantastic.  I can't imagine why it didn't get on the original record.

A pal of mine once said, "Some people don't like having breakfast for dinner--you can't trust those people."  To paraphrase, if you don't like the Rounders, man there's gotta be something wrong with you...

Stampfel's scratchy fiddle is like euphoria to me (to drop a song title from this record).  I've gotta plug another one of my favorites, not old-time, from Michael Hurley and Stampfel called Have Moicy! by the Unholy Modal Rounders.  Great 70s country drug rock (my term--don't get mad at me, but that's what it sound like).

Back to the 1964 Rounders.  "Hesitation Blues:"

I was born in Pennsylvania
I was raised in France
I'm a dirty old man
And I wear silk pants

These guys play up the grotesque, bizzare, and grusome nature of old-time like in their version of "Reuben's Train."  I misheard the lyric "Can't read the letter from his home" when I first heard this, so to this day I sing "Can't read the letter from his mom."  People dig it.

I got my razor blade
Laid Reuben in the shade
I'm startin' me a graveyard of my own

Man, it doesn't get better than this.  For a 20 year old rock & roll guy, this was the perfect introduction to New Lost City, Uncle Dave Macon, The Skillet Lickers, etc.

I know this record isn't traditional, authentic, or even respectful of the old-time tradition.  But it's so damn much fun.  Love it, love it, love it.

Black eyed Suzie, hey!


5 comments on “CD Review: Holy Modal Rounders 1 & 2”

irasmith Says:
Tuesday, February 13, 2007 @6:24:56 PM

Oh ya, the ROUNDERS, playing  around here in Portland Oregon waaaaaaaaaaay back.

So glad I saw them many times (I think I remember!) years ago, total insanity! 

Really talented group of players, Roger North still is playing around the Portland area with the "Freak mountain Ramblers".

I am sure the music is cool!

Scarecrow Says:
Wednesday, February 14, 2007 @3:03:12 AM

Got to check these people out. Thanks for the advice!

curtiseller Says:
Tuesday, February 20, 2007 @9:42:17 AM

This is one of my favorite records by anybody...ever.  Like you, it changed my life (in fact I believe you played it for me in the first place!).  I've never gotten tired of spinning this disc.

 It was one of the thrills of my musical life to get the chance to play a gig with Peter Stampfel's band "The Du-Tels" a few years ago.  Mr. Stampfel is still gigging around NYC, and he still sings it like he means it.

You MUST check out the film "Bound To Lose".  It's a great new documentary about the's truly hilarious and heartbreaking by turns.   Here's a link to the website:

scruss Says:
Wednesday, November 7, 2007 @9:12:58 PM

Yup, it's one of my favourite albums too. When I was just starting banjo, I emailed Peter about playing, and he phoned me, and started explaining stuff in his super-staccato way. It wasn't just a long-distance call, it was international!
I've also attempted to help Steve Weber build a web page. That didn't come to much.
Steve has now retired from performing.
The 1999 album "Too Much Fun" is almost as good as 1&2.

ewan Says:
Sunday, February 24, 2008 @11:17:11 AM

Yeah...  the first "Old-Time" music I ever heard.  This was (still is?) my dads favorite band when I was growning up.  When I started out on the Banjo, all I really wanted to do was play the cukoo like they do on that album.  This was before I'd ever heard the  Harry Smith anthology... But it was really cool, when I did find that and other source recordings, to work backwards and suddenly discover an original recording that had influenced them.  I still think that their take on "Black-Eyed Susie" is the best interpretation of an old time song ever!  And its not really that disrespectful to the tradition...  look at Tommy Jarrell's playful additions of lyrics for instance.  This stuff was built to be Blasphemed!!

Thank you for the wonderful description...  reminds me, that I haven't listened to this one in a while. 

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