(Self-released, CD, digital download)
According to prophecy — and the cyclical nature of local music — it is written that every seven years a ragtag, old-timey, good-timey, jug-band-y group composed primarily of sweaty, bearded twentysomethings should emerge from Burlington's college ghetto to deliver Queen City denizens from the haze of whatever newfangled sound the kids are listening to. And, according to my math, we're right on schedule, given that the last such act, the fabled Jugtown Pirates of Lake Champlain, sailed from our shores roughly seven years ago to plunder far-flung ports.
In the Pirates' wake, the Burlington Bread Boys have picked up the mantle — and the battered guitars, mandolins and washboards — to fulfill the prophecy that I totally just made up. Judging from their recently released, self-titled debut record, they are worthy heirs. Much as the Pirates were less concerned with musical polish than rakish energy, so do the Bread Boys trade in a sound more rooted in fun than flash.
That's not to say the Boys lack instrumental chops. They're not virtuosos, but collectively they are capable. The band's brand of boot-stomping old-time music — or, as they call it, "kazoo-core" — is characterized by wily charm.
The band obliges its kazoo-core leanings on the rowdy opening cut, "The Second Time." Following an exultant kazoo melody from Max Krieger, the band launches into a knee-slapping three minutes filled with slick mando runs, shuffling washboard and hairy, sing-along vocals. Oh, and a kazoo breakdown.
"That Ain't Wrong" continues the rambunctious mood, this time boasting a hint of Zydeco courtesy of an uncredited harmonica player.
"You've Got Me Worrying Now" slows things down, but only a touch. The Bread Boys' take on waltz is, as you might expect, ragged. Rather than fluid and flowing, their spin is more herky-jerky. Combined with vocalist Ethan Tapper's raspy growl, it's a boisterous little tune.
"Gone Too Long" is this reviewer's favorite of the record's nine cuts. It's also the most compositionally adventuresome, building from a slow, mournful dirge to a fiery romp that showcases mandolinist Chris Cartier and banjo player Connor Eaton — and later, the friggin' kazoo.
Following a pretty ballad, "I Love You Too Much," the record closes in wry fashion on "You're a Dog." Though still scruffy, it features the band's cleverest songwriting, and suggests that there's more to the Bread Boys than just party music. But they're pretty good at that, too.
The Burlington Bread Boys by the Burlington Bread Boys is available at theburlingtonbreadboys.bandcamp.com. The band plays Radio Bean in Burlington on Saturday, March 15.