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Music Review: Asylum Street Spankers – God’s Favorite Band

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From my many trips to various used record stores over the years, I have amassed a collection of silly novelty albums. It's quite amazing what you can find for only 25 cents. Let's see, I've got a collection of gospel tunes that is obviously a vanity pressing (the artwork is bad, the music is worse). Then there's the country and western compilation that was sold at gas stations. I can't quite remember which petroleum company it was, but the cover illustration involves strips of bacon and a skillet, all of which are wearing cowboy boots. Hmmm…what else? Oh, right…a high school battle of the bands record recorded somewhere in Texas back in the early 60s. Yeah, that's a keeper. And then there's my coveted Jeannie C. Riley Thinks Go Better With Love album that folds out into a 36-inch color pinup of the country star decked out in a red mini-dress and gold boots.

Uh, what was I talking about?

Oh right, the Asylum Street Spankers. OK, so I'm not trying to demean their work by rubbing it with my silly collection of musical trinkets. Far from it. My record store archeology just illustrates how much material is out there, all of it playing tiny parts in the story of how music is a part of peoples' lives. It wasn't just the big stars who made (or cared about) music, it was that church choir and those high school rockers. The music spanned everything from gospel/blues/jazz to folk/country to rock and roll. The story itself is often funny, sweet, romantic, and dark…and that pretty much sums up the music of the Asylum Street Spankers.

On God's Favorite Band, the Austin-based band serves up many musical flavors, including country blues, swing, folk, and gospel. Some parts are serious ("Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground") and some parts are serious AND funny: "Right and Wrong" in particular. I love the line about Buddha being "a big nirvana fan." Heh. On the 'hilarious' end of the funny scale is "Volkswagen Thing," which apparently, God drives.

Don't think for a second though, that these folks are a novelty act. No sir. They play the hell out of their instruments (guitars 'n fiddles 'n dobros 'n…) and sing like there's no tomorrow. Why, I bet if they'd been around in the 70s, that oil company mighta featured them on that record cover instead of the dancing skillet and bacon. I supposed that would have ruined one of my shopping trips. Come to think of it, the contents of this review would be different too.

Well, at least I've still got my Jeannie C. Riley poster.

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About Mark Saleski