Soggy Po’ Boys
Smoke, the latest effort from Soggy Po’ Boys, is pretty much the best-case scenario for a record by a band that calls itself Soggy Po’ Boys. Yes, this New Hampshire septet plays traditional New Orleans jazz, the kind with fluttering clarinet solos and swingin’ shout-along choruses. And they’re damn good at it, replicating the sprightly ragtime grooves, playful bursts of brass and irreverence to the Reaper that make second lining special. It absolutely makes me want to see Soggy Po’ Boys live. But even though these guys aren’t stubborn constructionists – Smoke exhibits a welcome fascination with Latin rhythms – there is a certain mustiness to the proceedings that I can’t ignore. Maybe it’s because I suspect Woody Allen would adore it. But it’s also because singer Stuart Dias tends to prefer lyrics that lack the same attention to detail as the arrangements. Take this stilted couplet from the opener, “So Simple”: “Through it all we stand here, imperfect and humble / Cautious of the future, with smiles on our faces.” “Yeah Alright OK” wastes a super-catchy Cab Calloway hook on a tired breakup narrative. “I Hardly Know Her” boasts some evocative piano-playing from Mike Effenberger (of Weird Turn Pro), but it’s another breakup song, one that references “liquid courage.” As a tribute to the sounds of the French Quarter from a bunch of New Englanders, Smoke is impressive. I just wish it gave me a little something new to hold onto. That’s not the point, you say? Yeah alright OK.