CD Review: Tumbledown House — Fables and Falsehoods; Play Twain’s, April 19

Tumbledown House
Fables and Falsehoods
Silent Coyote Music

By Al Kaufman

Welcome to the Roaring ’20s, in all its sexy, boozy, violent glory.

Montana’s Tumbledown House are so fresh and exciting because they do old so well. Vocalist Gillian Howe and jazz guitarist Tyler Ryan Miller have surrounded themselves with all sorts of cool cats, including saxophonist Roger Lewis, trumpeter and flugelhornist Efrem (E.T.) Towns, and trumpeter Greg Davis, all of Louisiana’s Dirty Dozen Brass Band. The result is an old style, jazzy, swampy romp, just like they used to do back in N’awlins.

The album opens with an ode to everyone’s favorite prohibition city, Chicago.  “Windy City” speaks of all the early speakeasies, where they “mix ya’ up somethin’ tastes like dirty feet.” This is Capone’s Chicago, and the song swings with muted horns and Howe’s vibrant vocals. Whether she sings about taking revenge on a boy who stole her bicycle by swiping his dog (“The Thief”), or her desire to be a boy instead of a certain wooden puppet (“Master Cherry Finds a Strange Piece of Wood”), Howe brings it with desire and passion.

And the music ain’t none too bad either. There’s the eerie carnival sound of “Little Castaway,” (about a shrine to unrepentant sinners that stands in Arizona) and even a tinge of Yiddish folk on “The Race Track Song.” But mostly the songs just shuck and jive and swing. “One Mistake Will Do” is a good, bouncy, “He cheated on me so I had to kill him”-type of song.  And “The Help,” in which Howe coyly states, “I’m in a culinary state of mind,” is a nice slow burn swinging thing about the joys of making moonshine.

These cats are the bees knees.

Tumbledown House play Twain’s on Thursday, April 19.


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