TERRY GROSS, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. There's a new sequel to the 1976 album "Have Moicy!," an album that critic Robert Christgau called the greatest folk album of the rock era. The sequel is called "Have Moicy 2: The Hoodoo Bash." The project is headed up by Peter Stampfel and Jeffrey Lewis and features a large assemblage of friends and colleagues. The album is a collection of songs that mix the oldest style of folk, blues and country music with lyrics that express contemporary sentiments. Rock critic Ken Tucker has the review.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "INTELLIGENT DESIGN")
JEFFREY LEWIS: (Singing) Why, oh why, oh why are all the icecaps floating by and every year they say the temperatures intensify?
UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #1: (Singing) (Unintelligible) Why, oh why, oh why...
KEN TUCKER, BYLINE: You can hear an awful lot of American music in the best albums made by Peter Stampfel sometimes within a single song. Now 77 years old, Stampfel has been making music since the 1960s, a decade on which he left his stamp - a song placed on the soundtrack of the hippie touchstone movie "Easy Rider," collaboration with the poets who would form the rock band The Fugs, his own recordings with the group he co-founded, The Holy Modal Rounders. And Stampfel's '60s roots continue to show. He commences this new "Have Moicy," subtitled "The Hoodoo Bash," by singing a cover of Del Shannon's 1964 hit "Keep Searching" with some new lyrics about outlaw rebels.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SEARCHING")
PETER STAMPFEL: (Singing) Nobody understands what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to find a place to hide with my baby by my side. Ever since the day when we made our escape her dad done found a Gatling pistol (unintelligible). And we got to keep searchin, searchin, every night and day (unintelligible) we follow the sun.
TUCKER: The back cover of "Have Moicy 2" lists 12 core members of this ad hoc group led by Stampfel and singer-guitarist Jeffrey Lewis. Different voices sing lead on different songs. Lead instruments trade off from cut to cut. This is very much a collaborative effort. But it's not an aimless one. The music is tightly rehearsed to seem loose and spontaneous.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BUTTS ON FIRE")
UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS #1: (Singing) Just the other night in the family shanty, the fire was low and the wood was scanty. The winds blew cold and the storm raged higher. We sat on the stove till our butts caught fire.
LEWIS: (Singing) Sister came in from the outside shivering, home from a shift of pizza delivering.
UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #2: (Singing) Just 40 more years till I can retire.
LEWIS: (Singing) As she sat next to me till her butt caught fire.
UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #2: (Singing) My brother's been freezing in the barn since Monday till the milk cow gave an ice cream sundae. He stomped to the stove with a strong desire to kick back and relax and set his butt on fire.
TUCKER: The very few purists among you will protest that this cannot be a true sequel to the 1976 "Have Moicy" since at least two of its key original players are absent - Jeffrey Frederick by death and Michael Hurley by choice. I would counter, however, that "Have Moicy 2" retains the full spirit of the original "Have Moicy." It is in keeping with the first album's mixture of the old and the new, the professional and the amateur, the optimistic and the fatalistic, the smile and the sob.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IT'S NO GOOD")
LEWIS: (Singing) Another rainy morning and the pancakes all got burnt. And all the letters that I thought might be my pitch that weren't (ph). It's no good.
UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS #2: (Singing) It's no good.
LEWIS: (Singing) No time for a vacation.
TUCKER: That's "It's No Good" with Jeffrey Lewis leading the downbeat sentiment into a darkly pretty melody, Stampfel on melancholy banjo. More frequently, though, the songs have a jauntiness that carries a sting, an optimism that is rooted in stark practicality, as when it is suggested that the sentiment eat what you kill might extend to the highway.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ROADKILL")
STAMPFEL: (Singing) What's that lying by the road? Killed by the car. Done laid down his heavy load. Killed by the car. It's still warm so it's still yummy. Killed by the car. Going to put some in my tummy. Killed by the car. Eat that roadkill. Ate that roadkill, honey, eat that roadkill killed by the car. Creatures great and creatures small...
TUCKER: A few years ago, I attended a music conference at which I heard Stampfel say at this point in my life I find the easy way is the better way. Another clue to his philosophy these days, one song here is called "Nonsense," a quality Stampfel prizes as a gateway to creative freedom. Yet, ease of effort and a fondness for nonsense does not prevent "Have Moicy 2" from having a real kick to it, a sense of immediacy amidst the old timey instrumentation and melodies. And it only took four decades to make it all sound inevitable.
GROSS: Ken Tucker is critic at large for Yahoo TV. He reviewed the album "Have Moicy 2," featuring a group led by Peter Stampfel and Jeffrey Lewis. FRESH AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our show was directed today by John Myers.
Today's the last day I'll have the pleasure of saying that because John has accepted a position as a producer on the new podcast team at audible.com. And today is his last day with us. He's worked on FRESH AIR for seven years. He's edited zillions of interviews, directed the show when Roberta Shorrock was gone. He's written and produced hundreds of the billboards that open the show. He's been a producer of FRESH AIR WEEKEND. He took the lead in retooling our podcast. And he's been great at all these things, but that's not the only reason his absence will leave a big hole.
He's just a great person with a big heart and a generous spirit. We've all loved working with him and having him around to talk with and to be a steady, calming presence on our show and in our lives. In fact, all of us are going to miss him so much that the rest of the FRESH AIR team has insisted on getting in on this goodbye.
UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Goodbye, John.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: We'll miss you, buddy. Hey, man. We hired you, like, yesterday. Where did the time go? Anyway, don't change your phone number because I'll still want to call you for advice.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: John, I miss you already.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: I guess I'm the tallest one now.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: That's actually not true.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (Laughter).
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Wait, you're leaving? Nobody told me.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: We are going to miss the handsomest man in radio.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: That's not true either.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: What if I don't want to say goodbye? Maybe if I don't say goodbye he won't leave.
GROSS: John, it's been great. Make sure you come back and visit. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.