Songs From Low Story is a soundtrack to a lost piece of burlesque theatre – at least that’s the conceit. I have no idea whether ‘Low Story’ really existed, despite the frayed poster on the album sleeve - and I don’t really care. Real or not, it’s the inspiration for an extravagant faux Americana collection that dives in at the deep end without armbands, when the safety guard has snuck out for a cigarette.
This an augmented band, the strong core quartet bolstered with extra players at full stretch. So the orchestration is charming, raw violin tangled up in honky trombone and tons more besides. The ubiquitous B.J. Cole jumps onboard too, lending his always graceful pedal-steel to proceedings. But for once, everything around him equals his efforts. And then there’s a hugely complex lyrical narrative running through the whole shebang.
“I rode the railroad. I rustled cattle. I threw my pocketwatch in the dust…”
Basically, Caramel Jack outgun everyone in alt-country by a Sussex mile. With few resources and no popular acclaim to lean upon, they're a fat cow pie more satisfying than Handsome Family, Willard Grant’s clan or the Calexico crowd. Occupying the same expansive, piano-led vaudeville-tinted universe as Howe Gelb, they bring a wider screen, sharper focus and simply brilliant songs. Chunky Joe Doveton’s painstaking ancient Yankee louche is more believable than Gelb’s real thing.
Moments here out-Hazelwood Lee.
Sorry to use comparisons but the shock factor is half the battle – Caramel Jack aren’t similar to Lambchop, they’re better and they need to be shouted about from the rooftops. I like all those others but Songs From Low Story is the finest piece of alt-country – with hints of the circus - I’ve heard for five years.
9Toby Jarvis's Score