Album Review of
Where You Been So Long?

Written by Joe Ross
April 6, 2015 - 12:00am EDT
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Chicago-based Tangleweed is a "foot stompin', moonshine drinkin'" group that has an alluring je ne sais quoi that is sturdy and self-assured. Full of exuberance and energy, this CD showed that the quintet's rough edges were starting to smooth out since their live debut "Just A Spoonful" album. No personnel changes have definitely brought their strings tighter, and "Where You Been Gone So Long?" was wisely recorded in a more controlled studio environment. Timothy Ryan Fisher (banjo), Paul Wargaski (upright bass), Billy Oh (fiddle), Kenneth Rainey (mandolin), and Scott Judd (guitar) share chemistry that results in some good-time music inspired from old-time, bluegrass, jug band, swing, gypsyjazz and Irish airs. 

Tangleweed's strength is their infectious enthusiasm and varied repertoire. "I've Found A New Baby" is a carefully-cultivated classic 1930s jazz standard, and their medley of jigs and reels or "Leaving of Liverpool" convey hues of emerald green. A tune like "Drunkard's Blues" is presented with authentic grit. The band's original old-time protest song bewailing war and poverty, "Hard Times," gives Tangleweed a sound not too dissimilar from the New Lost City Ramblers. Also written by all members of the band, the title cut speaks to "being broke and hungry, sleepin' on the floor" and "twelve hours on a Trailways bus to sleep here by your side." That cut epitomizes Tangleweed's bluegrass spunk. This string band's eclectic repertoire has a little something for everyone in a big urban environment like the Windy City. In fact, their varied music is quite breezy and refreshing too. This mostly excitable, frenzied set ends with another face of Tangleweed - "Last Call Waltz" with its one minute of doleful yodeling recorded in the empty stairwell of an old Chicago building. (Joe Ross)