Possum Trot Orchestra
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Possum Trot Orchestra

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A review written for the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange
by Frank Gutch Jr.
(frank.gutch.jr@gmail.com)
March 2007


Whatever faults the Possum Trot Orchestra may have on Harbor Road, songwriting isn't one of them. Susie Suraci and John Minton spent the time between the release of their fine self-titled 2005 album and the recording of this one to hone their craft and it shows. Each supplies a fistful of tracks, some of them downright gems. While they each have roots in folk and country, they reach way beyond those limits and borrow what is needed to make their song better.

Suraci hits her peak with country-rockin' The Content of Your News, which lyrically could have spanned subjects from true love to brutal murder in the swamps, but she opted instead for politics. A slam on megacorps, their takeover of the media and the idiot politicians who not only allowed it but promoted it, it bemoans the state of truth in this country and it ain't none too good (Sorry, but I have to dumb myself down a mite so the boneheads at Fox and in the White House can understand). Musically, it is as good as it gets, the choogling country-rocking beat giving way to excellent electronic effects at the bridge.

Minton stretches his style throughout, leaning a bit more toward 50s and 60s pop than on the band's first album. He outdoes himself on Winterlight, writing harmonies for Susie Suraci that match the light upbeat rhythm to perfection. The hook sounds familiar and though I can't put my finger on it, I don't care if it's lifted or not, Minton having folded it into his own folk/pop recipe just right for my ear.

The band itself, with the first album far behind them and the addition of mandolin player Dave Kartholl, progresses as well. Kartholl's mandolin is at times apt and at others key to the progress made. Suraci and Minton are their usual professional grade on their instruments. Rob Suraci, however, is leaps and strides beyond his last effort. His work on Blind Lemon Jefferson's Bad Luck Blues and Susie's Appetite makes you wonder why he is limited so much to bass and drums on most of the album, but when you play alongside Minton, well… In the end, the progress each has made has given the band a boost in credibility as a band. They are definitely coming into their own.

A pat on the back needs be given to Tom Tempel at Tempel Recording Studio as well. As button-pusher, he excels and should be afforded a "fifth man" status with the band. He definitely understands what Possum Trot is doing and magnifies the effect just enough.

The first time through this, I thought, okay, they've done it again. A solid effort. Repeated hearings, though, have me convinced that this is the jumping off point for bigger things. Today, Fort Wayne, tomorrow...?

Allow me a pre-emptive strike here. This band shouldn't even think about splitting up for at least three more albums, maybe more. As good as they are individually on this album, I believe that they reach a synergy as a band that they might not ever capture solo. Now that I've said it, let me put the rumor to rest. They are not splitting up. Fact is, they have only just begun. - acousticmusic.com


Contemporary American roots at its finest.... Not merely a very good album, it’s one of the defining albums of contemporary American roots.... A light and mellow album that conceals depths the likes of which more overt and strident works can only dream.
JEREMY SEARLE, Americana UK, Liverpool, England, December 2005
- www.americana-uk.com


As an effort to fashion a kind of creative roots sound for the early 21st century, this CD succeeds almost against expectations. There's enough depth to it to repay many listenings ...[and] a distinctive sound and a point of view that is appealingly its own.

JEROME CLARK, Rambles.NET: A Cultural Arts Magazine, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, February 2006
www.rambles.net
- Rambles.NET: A Cultural Arts Magazine


A wonderfully mellow album that takes you through all phases of American music as `Music from Big Pink' did over 30 years ago.... This album is unlikely to disappoint anyone who has an appreciation of Americana music of the highest quality.

ROOTSMUSIC.co.uk, London, England, December 2005


- www.rootsmusic.co.uk


In the days before [the Possum Trot Orchestra] proved itself to be so powerful and winning, the Minton/Suraci combo probably didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Minton specializes in stylish refurbishments of old-timey music and the Flying Suraci was a folk-pop outfit that sometimes came across as a considerably less drowsy Cowboy Junkies. But the proof is in the pudding, if a disc made of layered polycarbonate, aluminum and acrylic resin can be described as a pudding. Of course it can’t. Because Minton and the Suracis are consummate musicians and songwriters coming from different ends of the musical spectrum, the first CD is like a tour of about a century’s worth of popular music. At various moments, it evokes Neil Young, Simon and Garfunkel, Jimmy Dale Gilmore, Fairport Convention, Jefferson Airplane, The Band, Joan Armatrading and others. And it all meshes surprisingly well.... I would say “Run, don’t walk to your local record store and buy a copy,” if running didn’t seem so pokey in this context.

STEVE PENHOLLOW, Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, Sunday, January 15, 2006
- Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette


8 OUT OF 10. Subtle and delicate . . . American roots at its finest. After their outstanding 2005 self-titled debut I was eagerly anticipating The Possum Trot Orchestra's latest offering. Not only does it not disappoint, but they've stretched out and expanded their template while retaining all the things that made their last album so great.... The Possum Trots are quiet and delicate players, very much less-is-more people, blending traditional folk and roots styles better than almost anyone. They demonstrate to perfection that it's not necessary to blast out a wall of sound to get your point across. Theirs is thoughtful music, music that repays repeated listens, music that is informed by but not in thrall to the tradition, [with songs that] have the timeless feel of classics like "Long Black Veil." . . . A superb and rewarding listen.

Jeremy Searle
AMERICANA-UK, Liverpool, England, February 2007. www.americana-uk.com
- AMERICANA-UK, Liverpool, England



This album contains fourteen tracks--or should I say gems? . . . I'm still dazzled by the original stuff The Possums have to offer. . . . Arranged in old ways or even sounding kind of poppy, sung and played impeccably. . . . HEART LIKE RAILROAD STEEL (that title and that electric slide guitar!) and BUCKEYSTOWN (with catchy chorus and upbeat interplay between 5-string banjo and mandolin) are absolutely gorgeous duets. ED (about a couple in New Orleans the night hurricane Katrina struck, not knowing that the levees broke) and BILLY (about a Korean War veteran: "And when they roll them laundry carts / He thinks they're Chinese howitzers," true story?) bring tears to my eyes. . . . The lyrics are featured in the booklet, smart addition, especially for us Europeans, who like to study the subjects! . . . O.K., one more word from me: RECOMMENDED!!

Johanna J. Bodde
INSURGENT COUNTRY, Marburg, Germany, January 2007
www.insurgentcountry.net

- INSURGENT COUNTRY, Marburg, Germany



On HARBOR ROAD, Minton's savvy historicism and the Suracis' pop acumen have met somewhere in the middle--and that place, for lack of a better designation, is the early '70s. The Possum Trot Orchestra is starting to exhibit the same shambling deliciousness and talent for musical stew-making as The Band.

Steve Penhollow
FORT WAYNE JOURNAL-GAZETTE, Sunday, December 17, 2006
- FORT WAYNE JOURNAL-GAZETTE


The songs on HARBOR ROAD are short stories, often cinematic in scope, tackling weighty topics like disaster relief, veterans affairs, corporate takeover of radio airwaves, the rising cost of housing, Nashville's star-making machinery and more. But like folk troubadours from Woody Guthrie to Bob Dylan to Billy Bragg, the Possums balance the matters of the world with politics of the heart--and songs like TENNESSEE UNBOUND, WINTERLIGHT, APPETITE, and the gorgeous album closer, WONDERFUL, deal with love and loss in a mature, daring way. . . . HARBOR ROAD is [the Possums'] best [album] yet, and stands tattered shoulder to tattered shoulder with recent Americana releases by the likes of John Prine, Shawn Colvin, Nanci Griffith and Neil Young.

As usual, Minton’s songs are steeped in tradition and inspiration and yet wholly his own and as excellent as ever. And though we’ve known how good Susie is since her Flying Suraci days, and from her contributions to The Possum Trot Orchestra, with Harbor she truly establishes herself as one of the best songwriters in the area, if not the entire genre. She’s simply sublime on this album. Several of her songs on Harbor could be covered by artists in Nashville or Austin and be the best thing on the Americana/folk/alt-country airwaves (provided such airwaves exist). In particular, her song “Ed” deals with the tragedy of Katrina with an insight, humanity, defiance and sadness that strikes to the heart of the situation in a way that most other songwriters have missed. It’s a gentle powerhouse.

Matt Kelley
WHATZUP: HEARTLAND ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT, Columbia City, Indiana, January 4, 2007
www.whatzup.com
- WHATZUP: HEARTLAND ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT


With a cross of multiple folk styles and a touch of surrealism, the Possum Trot Orchestra is weird in the best sense of the word.... PTO references traditional folk without mimicking it.... With PTO's eclectic, bright approach to re-imagined tradition, POSSUM TROT ORCHESTRA is both enjoyable and intriguing, and should please folk fans looking for something out of the ordinary.

RONALD LANKFORD, JR., Sing Out! Summer 2006.
- Sing Out! Magazine


Discography

Harbor Road, The Possum Trot Orchesta, Southern Can Records SCCD 2227, Released December 2006.

The Possum Trot Orchestra (Suraci/Minton/Suraci), Southern Can Records SCCD 2225, released Oct. 31, 2005.

Going Back to Vicksburg, (John Minton with Possum Trot Orchestra & Flying Suraci) Southern Can, 2004. (available at CDbaby.com)

Life and Times, (John Minton) Southern Can, 2003. (available at CDbaby.com)

Then and Now (Flying Suraci) Hot Laba, 2001.

Photos

Bio

"With PTO's eclectic, bright approach to re-imagined tradition, POSSUM TROT ORCHESTRA is both enjoyable and intriguing, and should please folk fans looking for something out of the ordinary."
RONALD LANKFORD, JR., Sing Out! Summer 2006.

More than 50 years in the making, The Possum Trot Orchestra is the result of a Texan, two Marylanders and a bona-fide Hoosier finally crossing paths, instruments in hand. What sets us apart from other bands? Unforgettable original material.

Visit our cdbaby website for complete biographies and lengthier accolades from home and abroad--and to hear audio clips from all 14 tracks of the latest CD!

www.possumtrotorchestra.com

Member, ASCAP.
Member, Amercana Music Association.