The New Millennium Jelly Rollers.
A newly formed duo, the New Millennium Jelly Rollers dropped their debut album on Bandcamp back in May 2015 but still haven’t gotten a website up. No need really, the music speaks for itself, and their debut album is a delightful romp through Southern old-time traditions, taking stops for country blues songs from Charlie Patton, Skip James, Peg Leg Howell. They mix and match old-time and blues, exactly as was done by most artists in the time period, and there’s a paradoxical reverence for the roots, in that they clearly draw great inspiration from the old sources, but also a kind of irreverence that asks why these sources should be treated so seriously? The music that got cut into 78s, whether hillbilly or race records, was intended to entertain, and we seem to have forgotten that along the way in all the studious recreations.
In a sense, the New Millenium Jelly Rollers is a side project for each very-busy artist in the duo. Piper, fiddler, and guitarist Elias Alexander, originally from Ashland, Oregon, is also in a number of Celtic bands of note, and banjo player, guitarist and fiddler Max Godfrey, originally from Georgia, has a solo career and various ensembles as well in Georgia. On their album, they cover songs from the Skillet Lickers, a crucial source of Appalachian old-time music, but they also cook up their own skits to go along with the songs. The Skillet Lickers were famous and beloved for these wacky skits and weird humor, but few bands today have taken to that side of their music. On “Move to Alabama,” they play off the hillbilly accent of Godfrey, drawing in everything from NPR talk radio to fakelore representations of “authenticity”. They’re clearly trolling the old-time establishment, and are one of the few groups doing this today. It reminds me of Hank Bradley’s frequent trolling of professional folklorists. It’s a much needed bit of satire in the field that’s all too rare these days. Oh yeah, and did I mention these boys can play? Man, they sure can play! This album is a blast from start to finish. Also, they get bonus points for bringing square-dance rap and a cover of “Mambo No. 5” together into one strange goulash of a track.
Check out the album on BANDCAMP.