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Beat Circus | Boy From Black Mountain

Cuneiform (2009)
By BARRY THOMPSON  |  September 2, 2009
3.5 3.5 Stars

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The subjects of the stories sung on this second installment of Beat Circus's "Weird American Gothic" trilogy attain greater awareness of family, culture, and the world by voyaging across schisms in perception. Brian Carpenter, ringmaster of the Bostonian assembly, tapped his kindred for inspirational cornerstones, like his son's successful battle with autism and his father's early years on a watermelon farm in the Florida panhandle.

Carpenter has rediscovered his Southern heritage through the latter tale, but catharsis alone doesn't make for excellent listening. What counts is that Boy from Black Mountain is the prettiest darn dark Americana record in recent memory. I shouldn't heap all the credit on Carpenter when others rock the violins, tuba, and banjo, propelling ghostly bluegrass boogie-outs like "As I Lay Dying" and "The Life You Save May Be Your Own." And the musical saw wailing on the doom ballad "Judgment Day" is a truly sinister sound.

Half-a-star deduction, however, for too many wordless songs. I realize it's only recently that Beat Circus ceased to be exclusively instrumental, but when you take the throaty croaking on "The Quick and the Dead" and the bittersweet intones on the gorgeous carol "The February Train" into account, Carpenter's sundry vocals are too affecting to be shelved.

BEAT CIRCUS | Middle East downstairs, 480 Mass Ave, Cambridge | September 11 at 8 pm | $12 | 617.864.EAST orwww.ticketmaster.com

Related: Southern exposure, The electric company, Head of heads, More more >
  Topics: CD Reviews , Entertainment, World History, Performing Arts,  More more >
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