Monday, March 9, 2009

March 9, 2009: Black Jake and the Carnies

Apologies that this is posted so late! There was lots to do in the library today!

First a little news: The Ferndale Library is currently closed so we can move to our temporary location at 642 E. Nine Mile Road. We'll be closed for at least two weeks to move and get our occupancy permit. Stay tuned to for re-opening details.

Today I'm gonna talk about a CD that is like nothing else in our collection. Black Jake and the Carnies' Where the Heather Don't Grow is populated by demons, monsters, crooks, phrenologists, spree killers and the disobedient. The stories are told in the unique voice of Black Jake and backed an equally distinctive band playing what they've dubbed "crabgrass". Black Jake and the Carnies have been making feet stomp in the Ypsilanti/Ann Arbor scene for awhile and their CD (which came out last year) was long awaited.

One of my favorite tracks happens to be the first: "Paper Outlaw". First of all, God bless you Black Jake for putting a lyrics sheet in this CD. Otherwise, I might not be able to appreciate the cleverness due to the speed with which you sing. Case in point, "His keen and driven mind put forth to gain ascendancy he set his younger brother up to fall through guile and subtlety". This song is an uptempo tale of Phineas Philistine Pratt, and his short-lived career as an outlaw. The banjo picking is superb and by the end you'll find yourself smacking your knee along with the beat.

Another favorite of mine is "Hunters' Moon," the story of the prideful Henry who promised his wife that he would bring her the pelt of the "Loup Garou, an evil injun spirit half-man half-wolf stealin' brides before their honeymoon". I don't have to tell you how this story ends. Listen for the kazoo and washboard and learn the chorus, because you'll be singing along with it when you see them live.

"Jasper Watkins" is one of the more haunting tracks, as it seems that this fallen character had no evil influence, he just realized "what God had made him to be". And that was apparently a spree killer. The crying fiddle and sparse percussion in this track give it a spooky atmosphere.

The unifying theme of Where the Heather Don't Grow seems to be punishment for various forms of pride or disobedience. And we're not talking slaps on the wrist here. Souls are at stake. Eternal damnation. But somehow, despite the grimness, it's all superbly enjoyable and fun. Seeing Black Jake and the Carnies live is always a good time. So grab the CD, learn the words and come out next time they play. You might even win a prize (I've got a Magic 8 Ball).

Where the Heather Don't Grow is CD-1387 at the library. You can use the online catalog to look it up and place a hold on it.

You can visit Black Jake and the Carnies at their website: or their Myspace

Check out Black Jake and the Carnies at some of these local gigs:

April 9 -- The Bling Pig (Ann Arbor)
April 10 -- Trumbullplex (Detroit)
May 9 -- Elbow Room(Ypsilanti)
Jun 20 -- Trinity House Theater (Livonia)
Jul 17 -- Beaver Island Music Festival (Beaver Island)
Jul 18 -- Beaver Island Music Festival (Beaver Island)
Jul 25 -- The Ark (Ann Arbor)

Stuff You Should See This Week

Wednesday 3/11/09 -- Childbite -- DD/MM/YYYY -- Lay of the Cid -- Elbow Room (Ypsilanti)

Thursday 3/12/09 -- The Pink Noise -- The Clapp -- Isles of E.S.P. -- Old Miami (Detroit)

Thursday 3/12/09 -- Matt Jones -- Hana Malhas -- The Juliets -- The Blind Pig (Ann Arbor)

Thursday 3/12/09 -- FASHION -- The Johnny Ill Band -- John Barrett's Bass Drum of Death -- PJ’s Lager House (Detroit)

Friday 3/13/09 -- BLUE BLACK HOURS -- KEG -- WAR HORSES -- STAIR INTO THE SUN -- The New Way Bar (Ferndale)

Friday 3/13/09 -- The Codgers -- Phonotropic in the Vernors Room (Pontiac)

Friday 3/13/09 -- The Trachtenberg Family Slideshow Players -- DIA (Detroit)

Friday 3/13/09 -- Black Lips -- Gentleman Jesse & His Men -- Timmy's Organism --Magic Stick (Detroit)

Friday 3/13/09 -- PJ's Birthday! -- The Muggs -- Tres Bien -- Mumpsy -- PJ’s Lager House (Detroit)

Friday 3/13/09 -- The Darts (CD Release) -- Mick Bassett & The Marthas -- Wild Years -- Bird Dog -- Elbow Room (Ypsilanti

Saturday 3/14/09 -- New Grenada -- Beard of Bees -- Small's (Hamtramck)

Saturday 3/14/09 -- Handsome Furs -- Silverghost -- Childbite -- Blind Pig (Ann Arbor)

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