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Traveling Show

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Audio CD, October 12, 2016
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Traveling Show by The Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank

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Those rambling Hobo Nephews have a new album and DVD that they are introducing to a whole new audience while they re mounting a major tour across the country. Traveling Show, a 13-song extravaganza, is supported by special guests: Marco Benevento (keys), Jon Graboff (pedal steel player from Ryan Adams and also the Cardinals), and Ryan Young (fiddle), Eric Berry (mandolin), and Dave Carroll (banjo) from Trampled by Turtles. This endeavor is the third studio album the Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank have produced. It is also a great sampling of Teague Alexi s well-crafted songs. Teague, along with his brother Ian, founded the Hobos a few years back and began producing a rich sound and loyal following inspired by the land of the Iron Range of Minnesota. This is doubly inspiring because the Alexi brothers had no ties to the area until recently. They both grew up in southern New Jersey. Ian went off to the Berkeley School of Music and eventually studied drums and guitar in Africa for a year. Teague stayed stateside and played in a band called Spilled Milk and eventually followed a beautiful woman to the pine forests of Holyoke, Minnesota, where he makes his home. Teague began to sit on his porch and let the land speak to him. That changed him to the core, causing him to rethink his musical journey and set aside some of his earlier musical influences, mainly hip-hop, reggae, and jazz. After living in Minnesota for awhile, the rootsy music of this country started to sound better to me than it ever did on the beaches of San Diego or in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Teague said. Living out in the woods, suddenly that music started to make more sense to me. As Teague wrote and recorded his new music, he sometimes did a solo act as Teague Alexy with Medication. When Ian moved to Duluth, 30 miles north, Teague formed Hobo Nephews. He also started the Feelin Band, which is now fronted by Nicholas Mrozinski. The Hobos released their debut self-titled album in the summer of 2006. Sing!, with its sepia album cover that looked like the front page of an old Sing Out magazine, came out in the fall of the following year. Then a limited EP, One For The Time Capsule, was released last October. Traveling Show, which is available in three formats (CD, CD/DVD, and digital download) was released September 1 of this year. The DVD called Moments and Truths is a documentary directed by Joshua Priestley that offers an intimate look at the Hobos as they record this album. Traveling Show contains a happy collection of some of Teague s best writing. Even the track about a misbegotten love, Break Every Bone, with its twangy, steel guitar-richness and tight harmonies makes you want to sing along on the chorus and join them in their misery. Traveling Show, the initial track, chronicles life on the road and also underscores the band s trailer for the DVD and the album. Little One is a country rock tune reminiscent of Poco, and The Rooster presents a little dominant male song with a vocal catch in the vocals akin to Michael Parks recordings in the 80s. And there s so much more. The instrumentation is top-notch and the vocals (with Ian and Teague sharing duties) are a perfect vehicle for these great songs. Traveling Show is ripe and succulent, just ready for your listening enjoyment. But always it is rooted in the earthiness of the region and the big hearts of the people. The Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank are currently touring to bring this album and DVD to a wider audience. Teague handles acoustic guitar and harmonica on stage and on the album while Ian holds forth on guitars and electric bass. Paul Grill mans drums and percussion. Catch them when you can. --Refrain Magazine

Little Duluth is on fire when it comes to music. I ve already profiled the latest album by that Duluth-based icon of slow rock, Low (see review archives for a full review). Next up will be my take on Duluth roots musician and guitarist, Charlie Parr s 2010 effort, When the Devil Goes Blind. But today, I ll let you in on a secret: The Hobo Nephews can write and play authentic roots music, pulling out all stops in a musical compendium that includes aspects of John Prine s vocals, Wilco s musicianship, and The Band s grit. Really. These guys are that good. My son Chris has talked quite a bit about both the Nephews as a band and Teague Alexy (one of the two Alexy brothers who make up the trio know as the Hobo Nephews) as a solo act. Chris has tried (without success) to drag me to see Teague at Beaner s or other local venues. For whatever reason, I haven t made it out to see Alexy or his brother, Ian, who joins Teague in the Hobo Nephews. Now I know what I ve been missing: The two Alexy brothers play some mean guitar and write some mighty fine songs. Add percussionist Paul Grill to the mix and you ve got a fine, fine trio. Filling out the album is also a fine constellation of players, adding pedal steel, strings, mandolin, banjo, horns, and keyboards when the songs demand. From the opening cut, Traveling Show to Daddy s Coming Home , this disc is full of lyrical genius and just plain home-cooked playing. Old Friends and Rent Checks is such a spot on tribute to John Prine (including the mandolin playing of Erik Berry) you d swear it was Prine himself behind the lyric and the voice. Memphis in Your Head brings to mind Levon Helm and The Band, especially with the Wurlitzer adding texture to the driving beat of the song. The country flavor of A Long Time to be Gone makes the grade as either a terrific road or country song: you decide. And In the Morning has got that toe-tapping feel of the best of Jeff Tweedy and Wilco. The production of this album doesn t match the lushness of Low s latest, but given the rockabilly leanings of the Nephews, one wouldn t expect the same level of sonic artistry. My only criticism? At times the vocals twang a too much and thin out some. But that, in the end, is part of the charm of the group. The CD comes with a DVD which is a bit odd in pace and direction but has one great scene of the band busking on a stairway in Brooklyn. That cut is worth sitting through the rest of the video and redeems the project, in my eyes. For those of us who don t know much about the Nephews, a more straight on documentary of their touring and their recording sessions would have been welcome. 4 and 1/2 stars out of 5. One of the best out of Duluth I ve ever listened to! --Cloquet River Press

Traveling Show presents a charming collection of tracks that are fun and disarming in their honesty. The Alexy brothers, Ian Thomas and Teague, first formed the Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank as a duo in Minnesota in 2005. Originally featuring just the two brothers and a rotating assortment of local musicians, they released their first album Sing in 2007. The 2009 release of Traveling Show proves to be a discovery, as the brothers have added Paul Grill as drummer, and a bevy of talented guest musicians contribute their talents to the recording. Marco Benevento offers wurlitzer and organ for three tracks, John Graboff adds pedal steel for two, while members of Trampled by Turtles offer mandolin, banjo and violin for various tracks in the album. The production qualities of the album, coupled with the candor and honesty of these tracks, makes one feel like they are hearing the confessions of a carnival sideshow worker. Enthusiasm seeps from the tracks in this recording, drawing the listener in for repeated listens. The album begins with the swanky Traveling Show; punctuated by sparse keys, confident guitar and energetic vocals, the song has a rustic sing-along quality that blends elements of old and new. Imagine Johnny B. Goode as played with a buzz saw, and you'll get some impression of the track's attitude. The howling of harmonica announces the arrival of It Happens All the Time but enthusiastic guitar flourishes and fun vocals contribute nicely to the fray. The charming Little One is remarkable and lovely, with understated guitar and airy lyrics. Break Every Bone, with its pedal steel and reflective lyrics, invokes the spirit of vintage country. Harmonica and guitar summon the spirit of the barnyard in The Rooster. This charming ballad about a rooster in a henhouse, twenty chickens deep is punctuated with guitar and drums as it saunters home. Silver Spoons rollicks and rolls, sounding like a jam in some modern ragtime saloon, while In the Morning is decidedly more subdued and quiet. This juxtaposition of moods is prevalent throughout many tracks on the album, resulting in a varied palate of songs. Jam luminary Marco Benevento contributes organ for Memphis in Your Head, which features raucous guitar and a spirit of rowdiness. Brooklyn NYC charms and disarms, resulting in a sing-along classic that will resonate with you long after its 2 minutes concludes. A Long Time to be Gone tells the story of the wandering hobo, and is completed by pedal steel and its sense of the wandering desperado. The arresting use of pedal steel adds a spooky, layered quality. When coupled with lyrics that are consumed with lonesomeness and the passing of time, the overall result is darkly effective. Old Friends and Rent Checks is plucked lightly and reflectively, while Daddy's Coming Home closes the album with a transfusion of energy and jaunty guitar. The tracks of Traveling Show proved to be a revelation to me, and I was dazzled with its spirit of fun, intelligence, and zaniness. The tracks on this album have a decided intimacy, as if the listener is watching rapscallion musicians on some city street corner. That sense of honesty, warmth and exuberance is quite charming and really invited me in as a listener. The songwriting is top-notch, resulting in tracks that are varied in tone and production. Some tracks feel haunted and remote, almost lonely, while others summon the rowdiness of saloons and carnival sideshow acts. The CD package comes with a DVD of the film Moments and Truths, directed by Joshua Priestley. Featuring rare concert footage, emblematic imagery and experimental snapshots of the band as they travel through life, the DVD proves to be an interesting footnote for the album. --Homegrown Music Network

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Product details

  • Audio CD (October 12, 2016)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: CD Baby
  • Run Time: 41 minutes
  • ASIN: B002MAZMU4
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #729,405 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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