The Serpent and The Crow
11 Track, LP (2009, Afterdark Records)
Related: Graveyard Train.
It’s a genius concept really: five guys playing old-time acoustic instruments and bashing out songs about death and violence. Taking inspiration mostly from American sources, Graveyard Train have twisted folk, blues, roots, bluegrass and murder ballads into something quite original and immensely entertaining. Death and violence have never been so uproarious.
Irreverence is the order of the day, as banjo, dobro and double bass clatter and stumble through graveyard stomps, driven along by washboard percussion and clanking chains played with a hammer. Vocalists alternate between storytelling, call-and-response refrains and skewed harmonies. The effect is like a drunken sing-along on a Louisiana chain gang, but the morbidly funny subject matter and playful spirit preclude any accusations of cultural theft.
Basically, these guys are out to have fun – and they do this in a totally feral fashion. They know that appropriation is cool as long as it’s done with tongues firmly planted in cheeks. Hell, Nick Cave is a funny dude deep down, and nobody ever asks him to justify his ridiculous American accent or Southern Gothic imagery.
If anything, Graveyard Train have more in common with legendary Canberra/Adelaide band The Bedridden, who pioneered a whole new absurdist folk-punk genre in the ’90s. Both bands share an exuberant energy that is best experienced in a live setting, and both approach traditional instruments with a punk attitude that eschews technique and authenticity in favour of chaos and impertinence.
Don’t worry about analysing the music too much, just move your bones to their voodoo beat.
by René Schaefer