Blues / Country

The Darndest Thing

Artist: Sassparilla

Produced by: In Music We Trust

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

            The music of the five-piece Portland, Oregon-based band known as Sassparilla has been described as folk-pop.  Sassparilla features Kevin “Gus” Blackwell on vocals, cigar box guitar and national resonator guitar; the father and son team of Ross “Dagger” Macdonald on harmonica and Colin “Sweet Pea” Macdonald on washtub bass; Naima on vocals, accordion and washboard; and Justin Burkhart on drums.  They made their debut in 2007 with the country/blues album Debilitated Constitution and since then have recorded two more albums with varying sounds.  I recently had a chance to review their latest release, The Darndest Thing.

            The first thing that strikes you about this album is the music.  I know it’s been described as folk-pop, but I really feel that it leans more towards a mix of blues and country.  I loved the unique country/blues sound the blend of guitars, harmonica and typical bluegrass instruments like the washboard washtub bass and accordion make.  Lead singer Kevin “Gus” Blackwell has an extremely soulful voice that just cries out for someone to listen to his tale.

            I was intrigued from the very first track.  New Love has that bluesy feel and the lyrics describe the kinds of sexy thoughts that run through the minds of new lovers.  There’s an air of naughtiness throughout the song that I couldn’t help grinning over.  The entire album is like this, featuring such descriptive lyrics as to paint a picture of the events being described in the song.  You can envision that Bone Colored Moon and the individual cringing from the devil who “wants what he’s owed.”  We can all think of someone represented by Fumes - a sort of antisocial loner by day and Norm the barfly by night.

            While the lyrics are interesting in their storytelling, it’s the music and the sound of Blackwell’s voice that I found to be the two factors that drew me in.  I’ve heard a couple of songs by Sassparilla in the past and I have to say that I think The Darndest Thing may represent some of the bands best work to date.  I look forward to hearing more from them in the future.


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