Escape the Floodwater Jug Band
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Escape the Floodwater Jug Band


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This band has not uploaded any videos


The best kept secret in music


"Scene Point Blank Review"

A half a century ago, when America was a more wholesome place than its current manifestation, a man by the name of Kerouac wrote the great American novel of its time. In the novel, On the Road, Kerouac recounts the adventures had when crisscrossing the newly developed highway system. Kerouac himself often romanticized of an even earlier America still: a time when the depression was in full swing and hobos drifted from town to town looking for work, a hot meal, and a safe place to sleep. With their album Whiskey Will Fix It, the Iowa-based Escape the Floodwater Jug Band rekindles some of that nostalgic imagery and treats us to an earful of early twentieth century Americana.

Mixing traditional instrumentation (banjos, acoustic guitars, and ahem ukuleles) with the unconventional (a jug and a washboard), Escape the Floodwater Jug Band creates sounds commonly heard in the days before you could “plug in” and when an outdoor “venue” was a town fair or a dusty corner by the railroad tracks. With people like Sam Beam of Iron and Wine and Sufjan Stevens making the banjo cool to indie rock kids and fans of college radio, it's refreshing to hear the style of music the banjo was intended for.

Being a connoisseur of hobo culture I've noticed too many musicians of this genre write lyrical content that idealizes the good ol' days, when life was simple. To get across the country you simply head to the local train yard, look for a freight headed in your direction and catch out when the bull (train yard police) wasn't looking. The truth is that with the exception of convicts and kids who listen to Plan-it-X Records nobody hops freights anymore, making much of that lyrical content cliché. Escape the Floodwater Jug Band notes this and writes sounds about having fun. What's fun to them? Drinking, dancing and Tiny Tim covers. With an album that's half covers and half originals, they manage to cover topics of drinking, evolution, drinking, getting naked (and from the looks of some of the ladies, I'm up for the invite), and but of course, drinking. By the time this album finishes you might find yourself slinging back whiskey, stomping your feet, and spitting in an urn.

The quality of the album is surprisingly hi-fi; still something about it leads me to believe that a lot of these tracks were recorded live. If you listen you'll hear that the vocals aren't quite even in a lot of places only demonstrating that this is type of music best played by a live band. My favorite part about Whiskey Will Fix It is the smooth female vocals balanced with the gruffness of low male vocals. The instrumentation is dead on, proving Escape the Floodwater Jug Band is a no joke and is devoted to this style of music. Hell they even got the king of independent roots music, William Elliot Whitmore, to guest on a track. If that's not commitment I can't tell you what is. If you're a fan of real country, or basic folk, I suggest checking this out.

Now it's clear that members of Escape the Floodwater Jug Band are, or were at one time, record collectors with an eye for aesthetics. The packaging for this album consists of a sewn piece of leather with a piece of wood affixed to each side. On the front is a simple picture of a whiskey jug and on the back is a number. While it doesn't say how many of these suckers they made I'm sure it can't be many seeing how both the picture and the number were hand burned. Inside is a photocopied comic that references some of the song titles but doesn't actually make a whole lot of sense; the basic premise is a band of animals make their way to “fun town” to get drunk. Who knows? At least it's well drawn.

8.0 / 10

By Scottie - Scottie

"Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange (FAME)"

The title alone gives a good idea what to expect: lotsa jug, lotsa good times, lotsa swozzled singin' 'n playing', and lotsa laffs. This band is everything that the first days of the indie revolution was about: lo-fi, handmade, unique, and down-home. In the old OP magazine days, this sextet (3 guys, 3 girls) would've been perfectly grooved. Hopefully, the new era of super-polished sound from just about anyone with enough shekels to plop down for a small mixing board will not completely clear away efforts like this one, as there's actually a minor history and niche this is treading rather nicely.

Folk music per se was the domain where one needn't be conservatory trained in order to be a musical artist, or even to just give it the old college try, no matter what emerged. Escape The Floodwater illustrates exactly what that means, being a collective of jes' folks playing so traditionally that various of their instruments are handmade, preserving an elder style in the way it was meant to be produced. Ya jes' cain't get much more down in the hog-waller than that, Jedediah! They wryly adopt a number of covers, including a tune Tiny Tim made famous, Tiptoe Through the Tulips and a coolly bizarre choice in Rod Stewart's Young Turks. What you hear is a result Dan Hicks and Jim Kweskin were a bit too hi-tone for, right down to the belches, the snarky background puns, the snorts, and the wolf calls.

Washboard Nina actually plays a washboard and glockenspiel all the time, and Saw Slingin' Wade is pictured with his omnipresent saw, while Corn Tanglin' Kate plays a real jug! Lordamighty, but that's eggsackly what the doctor ordered. Toss in kazoo, ukes, gee-tars, Washtub Mark's washtub, and Gawd only knows what else, and the listener comes away with a grit and likker, hoots 'n hollers, sooey the pigs extension of Appalachia.

Even the disc's presentation is singular: a handmade naughahyde case, sewn by band member Banjo Kellie and sporting a burnt-wood tip-in of a whiskey jug, into which a surreal mini-jug-comic is inserted (drawn by another band member, Old Man Brandt), the whole affair sealed not with customary shrinkwrap but a piece of twine. Talk about DIY! Everything about this CD is a throwback and a reminder that we may well be spending too much time on spit and polish when the whole idea is to just have a good time whenever possible. - Mark S. Tucker

"Music Emissions Review"

What first comes off as shuck, since we have had more than a enough of smartass hipsters pretending to be hayseeds and playing country or jug band music "ironically" actually provides a lot of genuine jug band fun and memories. While I sincerely doubt that these kind folks, even ol’ Washboard Nina and Saw Slingin’ Wade were born and inbred in a rusty car on the front lawn of their Okie shack, there is a lot of the traditional in their approach, and a genuine love of the music is apparent. They tip their hand toward the ironic pose side with a cover of Rod Stewart’s rancid "Young Turks," a version not much less phoned in as the original. I’m a sucker for kazoos, washtubs, and ukeleles, and songs extolling the virtues of whiskey and redemption—honky tonk at its glorious best was always the Old Testament for Dummies. But love and imitation do not make for truth, as anyone who has passed out with dreams of spending eternity with the person beside you, only to wake up and realize you paid for every moment of affection in cold hard cash. This is fun, and the band makes it easy to forget how cooler they think they are, but that ugly arty shadow is still in some of the corners of this disc, about to pounce. - Mike Wood

"Pop Matters Review"

There’s retro, and then there’s retro. Escape the Floodwater Jug Band are the latter. The Iowa-based group has gone back to the days before rock and roll, before amplification—hell, even before the Great Depression—to find the inspiration for its banjo and washboard-driven debut, Whisky Will Fix It! Jug band music might seem like a tough sell, but Escape the Floodwater manage to walk the fine line between tongue-in-cheek fun and a full-out novelty act while supplying an album’s worth of surprisingly good little tunes. (Of course, more than half of them are covers, but who really cares? They feel as if they haven’t been dusted off since the Hoover administration.) Some people are sure to find their joyous hobo twang more annoying than endearing, but as a break from the usual, Escape the Floodwater Jug Band make for a refreshing change. - Adam Bunch

"Press Citizen"

A fundamental building block of the American folk tradition, the jug band is one of the most democratic and inclusive musical formats ever, utilizing basic, homemade and "found" instruments (banjo, ukulele, washtub bass, saw, wax-paper comb, jaw harp, washboard and, of course, a whiskey jug) and spirited, all-hands-on-deck caterwauling.

The Jim Kweskin Jug Band (with Geoff and Maria Muldaur) and John Sebastian's Lovin' Spoonful exposed the form to wide(r) attention during the "Great Folk Scare" of the early-'60s, but for the most part, it's been relegated to the kitchens and back porches of its origin.

Locals Escape the Floodwater (featuring Banjo Kellie, Washtub Mark, Old Man Brandt, Washboard Nina, Corn Tanglin' Kate and Saw Slingin' Wade -- plus ringer Wranglin' Will "Whiskeymore") have captured the wacky, knuckleheaded joy of jug band music on this brisk romp through 13 standards, originals and one inspired left-fielder (Rod Stewart's "Young Turks"), all recorded in hillbilly-verité by Luke Tweedy.

Nearly as delightful as the music is the hand-made packaging, featuring a leatherette-and-wood-burned-balsa pouch and an 8-page original comic. - Jim Musser

"Little Village"

"You wouldn't think in a post-modern, ironic Iowa City that a bunch of young folks would think it was hip to form a jug band and record old classics like "Jug Band Music" and "Tiptoe Through the Tulips". And yet, performing what may be the least hip music possible puts the lie to the whole idea of 'hip'. Why wouldn't goofy pop songs from the 1920s and '30s be hip? Jug bands have a crucial place in 20th century American popular music. Wikipedia tells me that W.C. Handy learned the Blues from the street corner Memphis bands who played homemade instruments. Jug Band music was revived in the early '60s as part of the popular folk revival, and the Grateful Dead grew out of an earlier group that played Jug and Bluegrass music. Even the robots at Disneyland's "Country Bear Jamboree" comprised a jug band.
While Escape the Floodwater members aren't reverent revivalists, neither do they hold jug band music at ironic arm's length. When they're played the classics, they play them straight, with plenty of verve and animation. They're not without humor, though: their engaging remake of the Rod Stewart hit "Young Turks" definitely takes the piss out of old Rod. At the same time, the new setting rehabilitates a song thoroughly ruined by Stewart's performance and subsequent overexposure.
They indulge their fixation in "Whiskey Will Fix It", "Whiskey Business", and "Aunty's Old-Time Whiskey Baby". The operative mood is cartoonish nostalgia, underlined by the comic book in the CD booklet. I can imagine the young members of the band getting their first exposure to their adopted musical style literally from old cartoons, which for someone growing up in the '80s and '90s may be their only connection to the popular culture of 50 years before.
No one will accuse these guys of virtuosity, but neither can their enthusiasm be denied. Given the roots of the genre, it almost works better that there's always something a little off kilter about their performances. And the Jug, Washtub Bass, and Musical Saw are only approximately musical instruments to begin with. They're able to retain a homely, homemade feeling to the music, and whether they're at the limits of their musical skill, or consciously keeping the edges rough, it doesn't matter. They sound like they're having a blast, which makes it fun to listen to. Their vocal harmonies always hover on the verge of going pear shaped. On "Tiptoe Through the Tulips", the backing singers sound like Tiny Tim most of the way through a pint of Makers Mark. Sure this music could be played with more precision and finesse, but it would be less interesting.
Packaged in a hand-sewn leatherette CD case, with balsa-wood labels made with a wood-burning iron, the CD is a fine artifact to have around, as well. In the new millenium, maybe it's time again for folks like Escape the Floodwater to breath new life into an old style. After all, with synthesizers, samplers and digital editing becoming the commonplace in pop music, what's more revolutionary than playing homemade instruments and performing without amplification?" ---Kent Williams - Kent Williams


"Take Me Home" CD EP (self- released, 2005)
"Whiskey Will Fix It!" (Super Amigos Records, 2006)


Feeling a bit camera shy


In the 1920’s- it was the Memphis Jug Band. In the 1960’s- it was the Jim Kweskin Jug Band. In the 21st century, Escape the Floodwater Jug Band is hoping to fill the void for progressive modern day jug bands. Escape the Floodwater Jug Band is Iowa City’s latest, greatest, and only jug band. The group began as a trio in 2004; equipped with a Do-It-Yourself attitude and songs that bare almost punk rock dynamism with homemade instruments, banjos and washboards in lieu of the customary guitar and drums.

Escape the Floodwater Jug Band has played with a variety of acts, such as: William Elliot Whitmore (Southern/ Anti), Marissa Nadler (Eclipse), The Envy Corps (Vertigo), Ed Gray (Unread), The Dreadful Yawns (Bomp!), Raccoo-oo-oon (Fuck It Tapes), Miracles of God (Super Amigos, Unread) and The Tanks (Floodwater Records) among many other groups, with genres ranging from folk and country to rock, metal, psychedelia, and noise. Bookers and clubs don't fear: This band works surprisingly well on bills with bands of every genre!