Join me, dear readers, as we hang our little noggins in collective shame. Now, repeat after me:
I (state your name), in utter ashamedness and humilification, confess my guilt in a heinous act of musical ignorance. I have not known until now (thank you, lacunamusic) about a collection of brilliance from the far northeasterly state of Maine. I hereby announce my allegiance to listening to absolutely everything I can get my grubby hands upon by Cerberus Shoal and Big Blood. I shall not swerve from this righteous path. By everything holy…. Amen.
Those of you who read this blog consistently know that I do not post consistently, but when I do you know that the content herein must be of utmost importance. Or that I simply have too much time on my hands (idle hands are the devil’s plaything as the saying goes). This time around I can assure you that the driving force is a healthy combination of both of these things. I’ve just finished listening to Chaiming the Knobblesone (Cerberus Shoal) and just about all of the Big Blood releases from Strange Maine 11.04.06 (2006) to the stunningly brilliant new double vinyl release Radio Valkyrie+1905+1917+ (2013) (perhaps to my wife’s dismay as, with each spin, I’ve unerringly and vehemently lectured her on how lucky she is that I collect so many cd’s). Here is my reaction to all of this music I’ve absorbed: flabbergasted, flummoxed, amazed to the point of discombobulation that a collective with such unabashed talent is not famous! They have collaborated with Alvarius B, Guapo, Visitations, Micah Blue Smaldone, The Magic Carpathians… still, I’ve yet to discover one lonely individual who knows about them (except for Molly, who opened my ears to them a few years ago… thank you Molly).
Cerberus Shoal was/is? a behemoth of a group that put out a whopping 14 albums since their debut in 1995. Each release a revelation. I find myself continuously surprised and delighted with their experimentational (this a combination of experimental and sensational) explorations. Big Blood (a fruitful yet somewhat craggy branch of the tree that is the Shoal, including Colleen Kinsella and her hubby Caleb Mulkerin, and various others) has now released 16 full length discs – each a little diamond of lo-fi beatitude. I swear these guys have more talent in one hangnail of one little pinky finger than the likes of Dave Matthews or John Mayer have in their entire untapped soul. (Mayer’s single talent seems to be constantly reinventing himself as a new kind of asshole. Now he is the asshole who feels the need to pay retribution for being such an asshole.) Big Blood record all of their albums at home and each package is lovingly encased in handprinted heavy paper with cool little inserts and a picture of Colleen and Caleb with their ridiculously cute little baby. Not unlike this one:
The artwork is of this quality:
I could not even begin to describe the music of Cerberus Shoal. If I were to do so, the very next disc would make a liar of me. I’ll say it thusly: music oozes from them like words from a poet, like the drops from Jackson Pollack’s brush, like tears and smiles from a little beh-beh. Here is the one consistent element: Surprise. If you have even the tiniest of adventurous bones in your body, give them a listen.
Big Blood, on the other hand, well, this is another beast entirely. Accordions, banjos, harmoniums, rusty guitars, kitchen percussion, weird little field recordings, and those gorgeous voices! all creepily, yet beautifully rendered to sound like some forgotten Appalachian living room recording off of Harry Smith’s Anthology. It makes complete sense that this music should come out of Maine. I’m not entirely sure whether it is because the state is shaped like a mitten or due to the fact that it is so fuckin’ cold up there, but I think that most of the country thinks of the state as sort of an afterthought. “Oh, yeah, Maine… that’s up there by those little states, right?” (Of course, geography is not a strong point in the education of the youth of this here US of A. Not like, say, recess.) Whatever it is that keeps that state a mystery has crept into their music scene. From Cerberus Shoal and Big Blood, I’ve now branched out into the even weirder out-lands of the Portland (Maine) music scene and ooo-weee, let me tell you, there is some crazy shite going on up there that may never reach the ears of us mainlanders, were it not for me, your humble blogger and musical spelunker. But, that will be for another post. (Was that foreshadowing, pray-tell? Why I believe it was!) For now I leave you with a little sample of Big Blood. And, boyee, is it a good one! Feel free to thank me. I like being thanked. Do yourself a favor, go trade in all of your Dave Matthews and John Mayer discs, take the small amount of cash you get, subsidize it by selling yourself on the street, and go straight to the Discogs Big Blood page and start buying things. Just close your eyes and poke your finger, because you can’t go wrong. Without further ado, I present you with one of the best bands in the world: