The clarinet makes this band. Virtuosity on any instrument is always impressive, of course, but there’s something about effortless playing on a wind instrument that really turns me on, and John David Williams doesn’t disappoint. His lines and seamless bends float over a lush bed of accordion and sousaphone, with trombone and violin occasionally taking the solo reins.
The Boxcar Boys also include a Boxcar Girl (Laura C. Bates on violin) and the five-piece band navigates its way around Dixieland, ragtime, and Klezmer styles on this self-titled album with competence. Rob Teehan’s sousaphone and Karl Silviera on trombone lend a New Orleans tinge, which — while trendy — is not unwelcome (aren’t there a whole bunch more brass bands around these days? Is it the Boardwalk Empire effect?).
“Ain’t Got No Rhythm” shows them all having raunchy fun. All tracks on the album were recorded live off the floor, and it sounds like the band really enjoyed playing this one.
“Jiminy’s Day Off” is a cute title. Too bad the violinist’s ‘swing’ is a little too square to pull off the carefree, skipping cricket idea evoked by the title, but the dark turn the tune takes in its B section is unexpected and interesting, as is the whistling. I’d take more whistling and less violin, actually.
The violin sounds much better on “Sidecar,” actually. Bates is more comfortable in this old-time/polka style, it seems, and she does shine here.
The Boxcar Boys are full of strong musicians whose names appear in various other band lineups, some of which are nominated in the same CFMA Instrumental Group of the Year category as the Boxcars themselves. This fact not only attests to the high quality of musicians in the folk scene these days, but hints that no matter who takes this category, it’s going to be one hell of a party — with a great soundtrack.
All tracks on the album were recorded live off the floor, and it sounds like the band really enjoyed playing them.