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REVIEW: Curtis Eller in Nottingham

Friday, April 17, 2009 @12:09:26 PM

Alison Emm went to see Curtis Eller at The Maze

Curtis Eller (right) accompanied by a friend on accordion (left)
Curtis Eller (right) accompanied by a friend on accordion

Who could resist the draw of a man who proclaims to be New York’s angriest yodelling banjo player?  Not me, that’s for sure.  I did note, however, that although The Maze was busy, it seems more than one of Nottingham’s population had been able to suppress themselves... more fool them. 

Curtis Eller is a sight to behold when he comes on stage; a tall, gangly man with a head of unruly curls, a moustache that any man would be proud of and a fine pair of braces to keep his trews up. His weapon of choice is not that of many modern musicians but he wields it well.  Ignore any preconceived notions of hillbillies duelling by the river as this is not what Mr Eller’s banjo playing is about.   

Moustached maestro Curtis Eller
Moustached maestro Curtis Eller

Bounding around The Maze’s stage with more energy than a four year old, his ability to high-kick mid-song makes The Pussycat Dolls look like clumsy oafs.   A man of balance, he even dared do it whilst on a stool for a couple of songs; the man has skills.  During the evening he sheepishly apologised to the audience that he had forgotten his kazoo only to have one lobbed on stage by Nottingham’s own Joey Chickenskin.  This was a gesture that Curtis Eller seemed to wholly appreciate until he blew into it  and realised it sounded more like a deflating balloon than a musical instrument.  Not put off by bad British design, Eller replaced all kazoo parts with yodels, a more than satisfactory result (yes, even yodelling can be made palatable by this man).  

His music is (sort of) of the blues/punk/folk/rock variety and as a solo artist he fills not only the stage but the whole room with his presence.  Such is the strength of his voice that even when he sang his first song partially without the microphone, you could barely tell the difference.  His songs are like illustrated stories that his music colours as they progress: Tales of circus elephants, Buster Keaton, bygone American Presidents, his daughter and boxers were all told throughout the evening. 

Curtis Eller is officially my favourite live act; he is funny, engaging and asks nothing more than for his audience to be part of the spectacle.  He knows a good tune, he can sing it crystal clear and he’ll make you laugh between songs.  

Curtis Eller played Cosmic American at The Maze on Wednesday 8 April 2009.
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