The Faux Paws – Self-Titled
At first, I thought this would be another banjo-picking bluegrass collection of good music & competent playing. By cut 2 “She’s Not Looking For You,” convinced me there was something else going on. The trio adds saxophone & suddenly it’s far more expressive & exciting. That dash of Tabasco in the meat sauce that spices up the pasta. The arrangements are superb, tight & the added value: the attractive Lowen-Navarro-type vocals.
The band’s been making music for a decade, but this is finally their self-titled debut LP The Faux Paws (Great Bear Records-Drops Aug 27). Based in upstate New York of all places, the brothers Vannorstrand: Andrew (vocals/guitars/fiddle) & Noah (vocals/fiddle/mandolin/tenor guitar/feet) started their careers with their mother in the contra dance band Great Bear. They honed their skills & toured the country for 18-years & released LPs.
But eclectic bi-coastal trio The Faux Paws, are comprised of the Vannorstrand’s with Florida native Chris Miller (vocals/saxophone/banjo). Quite a tight impressive unit. Miller studied jazz & played with Grammy-nominated Cajun-country band The Revelers. A real nice, different approach to an American classic music & recorded in upstate NY & not the hills of Kentucky. To spice things up, even more, are Zoe Gulgueno (upright bass), Dana Billings (drums/organ), & Zachariah Hickman (pimp organ).
The CD is an 11-track extravaganza of sound. Well-paced, thought-out & offers delectable musical interplay. “Southport,” is a steamy jam workout even The Grateful Dead & Phish would raise their eyebrows at. The combination of fiery fiddles, deep bellowing sax is a contrast that’s delicious.
The sax is often smooth & warm. “Anyelsewhere,” & “The Road From Winchester,” — mindful of the polished sax laid down by David Jackson (Brinsley Schwartz’s 70s solo LP “Despite It All” on songs like “The Slow One,” & “Funk Angel”). Jackson wasn’t known for this type of sax playing since he was more of a Roland Kirk type with the progressive rock band Van der Graaf Generator (“Killer,” “Scorched Earth”). Quite a musical leap. But the tone of Miller’s sax is comparable, lovely & has that veneer.
“Dirt Nap,” — a distinctive instrumental jam features dueling fiddles & banjo with a percussive torrent. This is striking. Dance music for people who have fast feet – like those river dance people. The group’s technique lays down an unflinching melody with controlled fireworks. Commendable. These are musicians par excellence. “Montauk” is generously a bass-heavy performance but cool in how it’s executed. This CD is set on replay.
Was I surprised? Yes, absolutely. The music affirms itself.
Trio color photo: Louise Bichan. Image with fiddle/sax/acoustic guitar: Bandcamp.
The 49-minute CD was produced by the band & available @ https://thefauxpaws.bandcamp.com/album/the-faux-paws