THE PLAYERS: Stuart Pearson, lead vocals, guitar, banjo, hurdy-gurdy squeeze box, bowed guitar, Portuguese guitars, thumb piano, mandolin; Bob Gannon, cocktail drum, spoon chimes, hubcaps, bicycle wheel (with bell), junkyard percussion; David Quillen, backup vocals, saxophone, clarinet, glockenspiel, guitar, percussion; Steve Andreoni, double bass, tuba.
MATERIAL: Through The Woods' material tickles your mind as well as your fancy, and can keep you smiling through the night. Except for one or two normal songs, most of their material takes a very warped perspective of the world. The subject matter runs from ridiculous to poignant, with songs such as "Crutches," about Superman falling off a building and breaking his legs; "The Bee Gee Nobody Loved," about a Gibb brother named Tito, who they kept hidden from the public; "Chang & Eng's America," about Siamese twins discovering the New World; and their most "normal" song, "Valerie," a ballad with a more familiar theme (a postal worker going berzerk and the one man still standing seducing here for his life). These bizarre musical stories, with intelligent and clever lyrics, are played out in various styles. TTW does it all, from a big ballad and a Cab Calloway swing number to madrigals and Fifties rock & roll; these guys are as versatile with their music as they are with their thoughts. And their presentation somehow put together in a cohesive manner which is never boring.
MUSICIANSHIP: What can you say about a group that sings and plays nineteen different instruments. Through The Woods have an amazing ability to incorporate and utilize each instrument in a distinctive way. For Quillen, sax and clarinet were his most common choices, with the glockenspiel not far behind. Gannon had a remarkable array of percussive devices to select from, but the most unusual had to be the bicycle wheel, which he turned in time to the music. Andreoni only played two instruments, but he had two great bass solos. Pearson switched instruments almost every other song, and played them all equally well, and his vocals ranged in style from a gravely Tom Waits to a boppin' Cab Calloway. His harmonies with Quillen were always tight and right on the money. And the group flowed from one style and sound to another, with ease.
PERFORMANCE: This band is probably the closest thing to old-fashioned vaudeville happening on today's music scene. Front man Pearson keeps up a good dialog between songs, describing the tunes for the crowd. And whether it's a tale about women in prison or a kidnapping by a ghost, it's always relevant and unquestionably interesting. His play off Quillen is reminiscent of the great comedy teams of yesteryear. Their timing is impeccable, and the jokes are hilarious. So that you can follow along with the songs more easily, Through The Woods hands out "hymnals" with the lyrics in them, but you have to really be on your toes to keep up with all that is happening onstage.
SUMMARY: Through The Woods is an unusual, entertaining and multi-talented group. Their material is funny, sad, and sometimes profound, and their show is truly one-of-a-kind.
Through The Woods "Over the River and..."-
Is There More Records -
Wow is about all I can say about this CD. Little did I expect the magnificent pop splendor inside. "Over the River And..." specializes in the kind of power pop that Brian Wilson excelled at and the four-piece band is filled with instrumental prowess, all of them playing more than one instrument, adding to the wonderful pop cacophony that Wilson and Spector brought to the fore in the '60s. Horns bleet, found percussion items bang and clatter and a bunch of other wondrous, melodic things happen at the same time, all over the place yet totally building a foundation for their intricate, eccentric songs. Beach Boys fans, Beatle-maniacs and pop fans in general will love this. Check out the second song "Valerie" for the catchiest song of the year. Review by Scott Homewood