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The Holy Modal Rounders - 2 LP


Recent reissue on 180 gram vinyl.

4 Men With Beards Records

Peter Stampfel dismisses this album's sequencing, which was changed without the band's consent before its 1965 release. (He resequenced it, adding two bonus tracks, for the Rounders' excellent One and Two reissue in 1999.) Indeed, the weird bifurcated structure, placing all of the traditionally styled fiddle tunes on side one and all of the more stylistically varied numbers on side two, rather misses the point. Like the musicians collected on Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music, the Holy Modal Rounders mixed traditional folk music and the artifacts of their particular circumstances (in their case, life among the junkies and freaks in post-Beat, pre-hippie Greenwich Village) into a unique and idiosyncratic blend that could have only come from these two people at this particular time. Mixing up the revered traditional song "Mole in the Ground" with the trippy "Crowley Waltz" was the whole idea! That quibble aside, however, this collection of outside material along the lines of the Stanley Brothers' "Clinch Mountain Backstep" and Blind Willie McTell's "Statesboro Blues" with traditional folk songs (there's only one original, Steve Weber and Michael Hurley's fragmentary "Junko Partner") is nearly as successful as the duo's even weirder 1964 debut, showing that strangeness and mystery, along with raucous good humor, is at the heart of American folk music.